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By Richard Tromans,
The UK legal sector can sometimes assume that demand for legal services is universal, almost an intrinsic impulse for any civilised society; that any right-thinking person naturally would want to engage a solicitor to help them. But this image is far from the truth and the roots of the problem are implicitly economic. Very few people “want” to use a lawyer. And as any economist will tell you, business success is about meeting “wants”.
The Law Society found that in 2012 only 27% of adults had sought legal services over the last two years, of which 36% of all matters were for relatively straight-forward conveyancing or will writing work. The other leading demands were for Personal Injury (PI) claims, an area that under the Jackson Reforms is likely to decrease sharply; followed by probate and power of attorney. None of this is a “want” that a client is likely to have very often. In fact, if one were very pragmatic, even probate work may slow in the future as people live far longer. Moreover, a significant proportion of mortgage and re-mortgaging is carried out by licenced conveyancers, not solicitors, and wills can increasingly easily be downloaded from legal websites for a fraction of the cost a solicitor would charge.
The backbone of the British economy, small businesses, fares even worse than the general population as a willing buyer of legal services. As noted in a previous blog, Legal Services Board (LSB) research found that only 12% of small businesses sought out legal professionals even when they clearly had a “legal problem”. This is especially concerning, as BIS data shows there are hundreds of thousands of SME businesses in the UK and they employ around 60% of the UK’s private sector workforce. They also represent just under half of total private sector incomes, or about £1.55trn. Though, as we will discuss below, this may represent untapped demand rather than a dead end for business development, but more on that later.
In at least the way lawyers sell their services today, for many people lawyers are a distress purchase; like having to go to the dentist for a painful and costly extraction of a tooth, perhaps triggering the unexpected need for further treatment and more financial repercussions. And, according to a recent survey, one doesn’t entirely trust these “legal professionals” either. LSB research “Consumer use of Legal Services” found that only 42% of people expected lawyers to tell th
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Richard helps law firms with important strategic decisions. He
advises on areas such as merger, practice development and geographical
expansion. He also provides assistance to law firms in relation to
organisational and operational issues.
Richard has spent over 16 years working in the legal sector focused
on the UK and global legal markets. He previously worked at Jomati as a
strategy consultant and authored the Jomati Report series between 2009
Prior to that, Richard worked at US-based, Hildebrandt International,
and also held senior, legal sector editorial roles in London and Paris.
0330 161 1234