The Clementi Review of 2004 was simply a set of recommendations which did not have the force of law, so many people did not notice it or paid it little attention. The prescient amongst us suspected it meant that legal firms would have to change—whether for the better or the worse depended on one’s point of view. Even though the implementation of the underlying regulations of The Legal Services Act of 2007 was delayed until 2010/11, and may be delayed again, changes are most definitely afoot. What are the implications of the introduction of “Tesco Law” to the UK? Can legal practices afford to ignore it?
Humans build a complex view of the world around interrelated beliefs about themselves, society and physical reality. Having built this view over many years, starting when we were very young, it suits us to assume that the way we see things is accurate and, more importantly, static. We may change this static view on selected occasions (a new job, a new car, a new partner), but otherwise we find security in expecting next year to follow the same pattern as last year.
There will be a Christmas party, we will have five weeks’ holiday, house prices will continue to rise, we will upgrade our phone, we will have a job…. If we study and work hard, we will succeed in our chosen profession, rising through the ranks on the predictable career path that will bring us the wealth, status and control over our destiny that we deserve.
The truth is, many organisations did not have a Christmas Party last year and will not have one this year. Despite the economic backdrop, house prices continued to rise until very recently, when they started to fall. Over the last three years they have fallen in absolute terms. The UK is supposedly coming out of recession, but some economists still predict the dreaded “double-dip”. Some highly qualified professionals do not have jobs, and some who have jobs do not have enough work at the right levels of income to guarantee their careers.
Would you have predicted these changes? If you did predict them, did you act on your predictions?
Change is around us all every day. The question is, are you alive to the changes? Do you actively monitor your clients and your market for those changes? From month to month they are subtle, but from year to year easier to see.
Another example is O2. They have announced they are moving into travel insurance sales because with the advent of smart phones their existing customer base will want to use their phone as a convenient way to buy and pay for insurance. Good news for O2, but bad news for the websites who were selling travel insurance to O2’s 20 million customers in the UK.
Looking at the market for legal services, what does this mean?
It means that you need to identify the sources of change in your area of expertise. Some of these will be obvious, for example when the actual law or precedents change. Others may be less obvious.
Everyone knows that to get a good will you need a solicitor. Yet, leaving aside the relative merits of services on offer, there are now several organisations that sell wills off the shelf. Such an organisation cold-called me and offered to write my will for £100. Indeed, there is a website (on the first page of Google results) inviting you to make a will for free.
The real question is, what other types of legal services will move to a low value, low service model? How does that type of change impact the pricing for remaining services? Will clients increasingly expect all advice to be given online via a smart phone? Will your competitors develop software tools that allow more complex matters to be briefed and analysed and advice to be given by less-skilled people?
With the imminent introduction of laws based on the Clementi review, and an increasing number of non-legal firms offering legal services, it is now rather more certain that firms will have to change. How can you be on the best side of the change? For there is certainly profit to be made by the successful changers.
What is BigWig Network?
The deregulation of legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, that will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.
Find out more at our Last Wednesday meetings.