15 June 2018

Culture clash and complacency threaten future of Independent law firms

Culture clash as survey raises complacency concerns in the face of a rapidly evolving legal landscape and escalating industry challenges.

Almost three-quarters of lawyers in small firms report a clash between the client-driven market and the traditional role of a lawyer, while over two thirds fail to adapt or evolve business strategy. The culture clash and complacency in independent law firms are flagged by The Bellwether Report 2018: The Culture Clash – Solicitor Confidence vs Client Power, published by LexisNexis UK.

Disturbing results

The survey reveals that three-quarters (75%) of professionals from across the independent legal market believe the legal landscape is changing at a faster pace than ever, yet only one in five acknowledge that significant change is needed within their own firm to keep pace with the industry. The main findings show online search and price comparison is now the norm and client empowerment at an all-time high as a result. Lawyers rank the continuing demands of compliance regulations (81%) attracting new business (80%) and keeping up-to-date with industry changes (78%) as the top three challenges facing their business. Almost three-quarters (71%) of lawyers surveyed have had personal experience of the culture clash between an increasingly client-driven market and the traditional role of the solicitor, with a further quarter (26%) highlighting a negative impact on fee structure. While 97% acknowledge that a client-first culture is now important to the success of their law firms, over two thirds (69%) report that their business is making little or no change to meet these demands, raising concerns around their long-term future

Not ‘highfalutin’ anymore

Jon Whittle, Market Development Director at LexisNexis UK, comments ‘Online search and price comparison is now the norm and client empowerment at an all-time high as a result. While our research reveals that most independent firms are aware of this shift, it also shows that too few are responding by taking proactive steps to adapt to this new world order.’ Many clients also now seem to be moving away from the full-service model that traditionally defined the industry and towards a more mix-and-match approach, selecting services that suit their needs from a range of providers. One survey respondent commented ‘The legal profession has taken an awfully long time to realise that we’re not in some highfalutin position where clients should be honoured to work with us. Actually, this is a business and we have to sell ourselves.’