The 2018 Smith & Williamson Law Firm Survey, developed in association with The Lawyer and launched today, shows that addressing the competitive landscape, rather than Brexit, remains the top priority for elite legal firms in the UK.
Less than a third (32 per cent) of respondents now regard Brexit as a threat to their business, a marked change in comparison to 60 per cent when asked the same question last year.
The 24th annual survey canvassed the opinions of more than 130 law firm senior UK executives to their current attitudes to a range of key issues affecting the market, including Brexit and the war for talent.
It unearthed a self-confident profession that sees genuine opportunity amid the current uncertainty but nevertheless needs to fight for the very best people in an increasingly tough marketplace. Indeed, respondents expect their main sources of competition over the next three years to come from current direct competitors, online service providers, in-house resource and niche firms.
The survey found mergers and acquisitions remain an unpopular choice for expansion, with law firms preferring to make selective hires of top performing teams. Technology spend is increasing but focused on incremental efficiency improvements rather than business transformation.
Furthermore, new entrants alongside the traditional competitors are intensifying an already fierce war for talent. Salary pressure is still rising as US law firms continue to lead the way and rivals are addressing this with increasing specialisation and geographic expansion.
Commenting on the findings of this year’s survey, Giles Murphy, Head of Professional Practices at Smith & Williamson, said: “Our 24th annual survey has long been a vital benchmarking tool for the sector and this year’s edition is no exception. It shows the legal profession may need to find more creative solutions to preserve productivity and profit margins in the face of a wave of mounting business pressures and underlines that sustaining a competitive edge will become more challenging.
“Without real change, firms face losing clients, reducing fees for those they retain, plus increasing costs for doing so. Nevertheless, the legal market still holds vast opportunities for those firms that prove most adaptable.”
You can download a copy of the 2018 Smith & Williamson Law Survey in conjunction with The Lawyer here.
By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of publication.
Notes to editors
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