Nick Stone, ARK Group conference producer outlines the road ahead for legal service delivery.
The traditional law firm model is the partnership structure, with support staff allocated per fee earner, but this is not an effective model for doing business in a fast-moving complex global environment as decisions take too long and the number of support staff required per fee earner reduces as technology advances.
The SRA are at the forefront of the change in the delivery of legal services. Their ‘Looking to the future – flexibility and public protection’ consultation forms part of the regulator’s ongoing shake up of the legal profession. Other issues include price transparency, in response to the Competition and Market Authority’s recommendations and a review of professional indemnity insurance.
In her forward on the subject, board chair Enid Rowlands sets out the SRA’s objective.
“The public, and indeed businesses, are looking for the right legal services at the right price. The ways that people find, access and use services are changing. Solicitors, law firms and other organisations are responding by offering new services in new ways and through new business models. Our regulation must be up to date and fit for purpose; fit to provide public protection without hampering the growth and innovation that drives a competitive and effective legal sector.”
The SRA explain their approach in the context of fast changing provision of legal services and that consumers are finding new ways to take these services at competitive prices. Indeed, we are already seeing the provision of new internet services including Lawyers Online and My Lawyer. And it’s not just the consumer market that seeing new entrants to the market. Halebury, Flex and Yuzu are all offering a new online presence for businesses.
Regulation forms just one part of the potential disruption and innovative contribution to legal services. New talent brings new ideas and new working together with challenges of attraction and retaining new recruits. And the question for the legal profession is how new talent can be aligned to the needs of clients.
Business models and partnership decision making processes are also under scrutiny. Profit management needs to be reviewed and billing structures examined. The fast pace of technological change might allow more functions to be outsourced or aspects of work to be augmented with AI or even replaced by it entirely.
So what can we expect in the future? Iain Miller at Kingsley Napley offers four possibilities:
- Great provision of in-house legal team selling their services to the wider public
- Existing brands adding legal services
- Unregulated legal services clearly offering a solicitor-led services
- New business offering services without the need to become an ABS
Iain Miller will be speaking at the ARK Group’s Disruptive Innovation in Legal Services on 19 April 2018.