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Adapting to the New Legal Services Market: Can Law Firms Avoid Becoming a Comet?

KING, Ian and EDWARDS, Catherine (2013) Adapting to the New Legal Services Market: Can Law Firms Avoid Becoming a Comet? In: British & Irish Legal Education & Technology Association Annual Conference 2013, 11-12 April 2013, University of Liverpool. (Unpublished)

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In The Future of Law (1996), Richard Susskind predicted that new technologies would change beyond recognition the way in which the legal marketplace would operate and how legal services would be delivered. In The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (2008), Susskind expanded on and developed his theme by arguing that the position of traditional lawyers would be eroded if not displaced by the twin pressures of a demand for greater legal commoditisation and the ever increasing uptake of new legal technologies. We can see clear evidence from the High Street that traditional retailers such as Comet, Jessops and Blockbuster who fail to adapt to the changing nature of the consumer market have gone under, whilst new businesses such as Amazon, Netflix and Love Film have prospered. If there is encouragement for traditional law firms, perhaps it lies in the experience of traditional retailers like Argos and Next who have managed to survive by adapting their business model to embrace the increasing consumer demand for “click and collect”.
So how will the traditional legal market respond, and what impetus for change will be provided by the introduction of the Alternative Business Structure (ABS)? Ever since the concept of the ABS was introduced by the Legal Services Act 2007, opinions within the legal community have been sharply divided. Some see them revolutionising the legal market and the way in which legal services are delivered, introducing big brands such as Direct Line and the AA to the market for the first time. For many this is not viewed in a positive light; the Law Society has conducted an advertising campaign extolling the virtues of the traditional high street solicitors practice; Quality Solicitors, a network of independent solicitors, has recently conducted a viral advertising campaign contrasting “Faceless legal advice from supermarkets” with their own solicitors who “know their onions”. Recent research by The College of Law suggests that only 1% of law students would choose to work for an ABS over a traditional law firm. For others change has to be positive, and the introduction of greater competition and choice to the market can only be a good thing, with consumers being the big winners. In his latest book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (2013), Susskind encourages new and aspiring lawyers to embrace change if they are to succeed in this new legal landscape.
It is certain that some big players will enter the market; indeed, the Co-Op has been in the legal services market since 2006 and already has an ABS licence; others will certainly follow. These new players will surely provide legal services in a very different way to traditional law firms. However, many ABS applications have come from existing law firms, so in fact the greatest impact may be to encourage traditional firms with entrepreneurial foresight to grasp the opportunity to provide better, more competitive and more relevant services to their clients. Are law firms now recognising the need to adapt their business model? This survey will attempt to answer this question by analysing the evidence so far from the applications received by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and the relatively small number of licenses issued to date. It will in particular consider the views of local and regional law firms, collected by survey and interview, some that have either already applied to convert or are actively considering doing so, looking at their motivations, hopes and fears. How do they view the future? Do they recognise a need to adapt, or can they survive and prosper using traditional models? If they fail to adapt, will they become a Comet?

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: Previous Faculty of Business, Education and Law > Law
Event Title: British & Irish Legal Education & Technology Association Annual Conference 2013
Event Location: University of Liverpool
Event Dates: 11-12 April 2013
Depositing User: Ian KING
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2013 22:28
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:38

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