Traditional law firms will lose out to small specialists providing quality over quantity, says Bellwether Report 2017, Art of Success
The report further finds that most independent law firms see success as a trinity of three elements: the quality of their expertise, solid commercial logic, and commitment to a happy working environment.
65% of those interviewed cited being bespoke as the key driver to their success, and it appears that this difference in focus will have a material impact on the market. Predicting the next three to five years, 69% of independent firms expect an increase in smaller, specialist suppliers providing quality versus quantity; and 65% believe that specialist firms will start to steal business away from the traditional high-street firms that can’t compete with these levels of bespoke service.
Unsurprisingly then, the top priorities and success criteria for specialist and smaller firms is slightly different to those offering a more generalist service in the independent sector. 27% of specialists place a greater emphasis on being well informed about their client’s business versus 19% of all those interviewed. They are also more concerned about the quality of their legal expertise, 70% cited this as a contributing factor to success versus 57% across the whole sample.
At an individual level, lawyers recognise that there’s more to being a good lawyer than just having the right knowledge and skills. 69% of the respondents claim that understanding how to apply the law to get the best result for the client is of highest importance. Despite this, only 11% of respondents claim that having a sound grasp of the business world is a top priority. And 43% of lawyers said they lacked access to the quality legal information they need.
Overall though, it seems to be a good time for independent law firms. 87% of firms said they’re either stable or growing, higher than any year since the Bellwether report began in 2013.
“Disenchanted by the way that larger law firms operate, successful independent lawyers are determined to learn from their past experiences and create a healthier working culture in their own firms for staff and clients alike,” commented Jon Whittle, Market Development Director at LexisNexis UK. “Their firms’ ethos, driven by things like bespoke service, good staff morale, fairer pay, realistic targets and common business goals, is delivering both commercial success and job satisfaction. These new enlightened decision makers are proving that business achievement starts with client care and a good working environment and culture for their people. It’s these elements, coupled with sound investment in the right tools, technology and information to enable them to provide the bespoke services their clients now expect, that will help them to not only survive but thrive over the coming months and years.”
The Bellwether Report 2017 is the fifth annual report in the series and explores the current and future state of the legal landscape from the point of view of independent law firms. It examines their priorities, challenges, attitudes and appetite for change, uncovering some telling differences of opinion between lawyers and private clients. This report, The Art of Success, is the first of three reports in the Bellwether 2017 series and is based on 10 qualitative interviews and quantitative research among 118 lawyers in independent law firms, focusing on the theme of success. Each report will build on the previous report.
The full report is available here: www.lexisnexis.co.uk/BW17/1
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