At 95% of the total of all law firms in the UK, small law firms currently make up an overwhelming majority of the legal market. 44% of solicitors surveyed recently by LexisNexis said that they would consider working for a small firm in the future, with less than 2 in 10 citing that they would choose to work for a large firm.
The Bellwether Report, entitled, Is the Future Small?, surveyed solicitors currently working at small law firms, where the majority – 2 out of 3 of those surveyed – had previously worked in medium to top tier firms. Research conducted by LexisNexis for the Bellwether Report series highlighted that small firms are becoming more and more attractive to legal professionals as their chosen employer.
Could small law firms shape the future of law? When it comes to a law firm’s size, here are 4 ways we discovered that big, is not necessarily better:
When we spoke to solicitors who were currently working at small law firms with under 20 fee earners, 92% of respondents quoted that the ability to remain in control of their work was a key advantage. 75% felt it was a major benefit that the same person in the firm run their matter from beginning to end, meaning that they get full visibility on the process and outcome of the enquiry.
76% of those surveyed as part of the Bellwether series felt that lower levels of bureaucracy and swifter decision making processes meant that working in a smaller firm was more enjoyable.
It’s the new thing, and it appears that solicitors are also keen to maintain a balance between work and play. Long hours, and trouble taking time off can only contribute negatively to a lawyer’s work and emotional wellbeing. Over half of those we spoke to said that both flexi-working and work/life balance were a “major benefit” of smaller practices.
The future of law is certainly to offer first-rate client experience. It is a very current topic, which is also considered to be a challenge in service delivery among the larger firms. Some of the other metrics of the study surrounding the ability to remain in control, and a single point of contact, also point towards lawyers being acutely aware of how things look from the client perspective. As technology has proliferated, so has the customer’s ability to shop around, and research the industry themselves. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that 79% of the 176 solicitors we spoke to stated that client experience was a major benefit of being small.
The benefits of small law firms are resoundingly clear: a better client experience, workplace efficiency, an agile approach, competitive pricing and the ability to remain in control. What is evident is that solicitors who have worked hard to study law, have usually shown real commitment to their subject, a passion for the industry and their area of expertise. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that so many are attracted to the qualities offered by smaller firms.
Swifter decision-making, a greater control in their work, and a single point of contact managing client issues, all invariably affect not only the experience offered to the client, but the potential impact the lawyer can have, and their ability to focus on delivering high quality law.
To read Is the Future Small? Bellwether report, visit: www.lexisnexis.co.uk/future
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Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved writing content and research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"
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