Law firms of the future—mergers v going niche

Law firms of the future—mergers v going niche

The legal profession is experiencing a period of rapid change. The demands from technological advancement, the increasing use of competitive tendering and the emergence of a new generation of lawyers all pose challenges to a law firm’s survival. Experts suggest many mid-sized law firms of the future may have to consider merging into a full-service firm or working within a particular niche.

Going niche—an alternative business model

Zoe Holland, managing director of Zebra LC, suggests there are obvious advantages to law firms going niche: ‘Specialist expertise, and clients of a particular type, enables firms to introduce efficiency into the process.’ This is particularly true in certain sectors, such as personal injury. Holland continues: ‘The challenge within areas such as clinical negligence and catastrophic injury is the potential cash pull on the firm at a time when fixed costs are looming. This work can be long tail and disbursement hungry. Hikes in court fees also impact cash flow.’ These challenges are better suited to the niche firm, Holland claims.

Viv Williams, legal services director at SIFA 360, similarly argues that going niche could prove beneficial to firms boasting specialist expertise: ‘We are all aware of the external changes affecting the profession. Firms that have previously specialised in, for example, legal aid or personal injury are looking to find suitable alternatives when their business models no longer work.’

Holland says there are also economic incentives to going niche: ‘Being niche can present genuine market opportunities, as well as the ability to be nimble and flexible in a changing market. A niche player who has a complete grip on a particular market sector is often able to command a premium because it is the desired supplier for a client. A premium will be paid for the best in the field.’

Williams agrees with Holland: ‘Niche firms can be more flexible and price services based on output and not on

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