After a serious low and a soaring high, business confidence levels have returned to pre‐pandemic levels. Results from our 2022 Bellwether survey revealed 0% of respondents are confident about the future of their firms.

The top threats for 0% of respondents are attracting and retaining talent, followed by attracting new business at 0%.

Remote working isn't holding businesses back, as 0% of respondents revealed that their law firm has adapted well to the challenges of hybrid working.

For ten years now LexisNexis has been producing its Bellwether report — an annual survey of independent law firms throughout England. Throughout the last decade these reports have offered invaluable insights and guidance and contributed to the discourse on the future of independent law firms.

The 2022 report finds that despite threats of doom and gloom, independent law firms were pleasantly surprised to find the financial repercussions of the pandemic were minimal — with many making a serious profit and have devised ambitious growth plans, with mergers and acquisitions becoming increasingly attractive.

But a new wave of change is on its way and small law firms will need to move quickly in order to stay afloat. Can small law leaders apply what they've learnt in the last 24 months to a new era of transformation? Or will an out-of-the-woods attitude hold them back?

Key Themes

Financial performance — confidence returns to pre-pandemic levels

Results from our 2022 Bellwether survey revealed 91% of respondents are confident about the future of their firms. A lazy conclusion to this change would be that confidence is slipping, but it is more likely the aftermath of the post-lockdown legal boom which saw the UK’s law firms generate a whopping £41.58bn in revenues, compared to annual turnovers of £36.78bn in 2020.

Four-fifths of firms say financial expectations have been met.

Financial Performance

Mergers and acquisitions — more attractive than previously

Organic growth is the priority for most small law firms, with 65% of respondents revealing that their businesses are planning to grow through organic means in the next five years or so.

When asked about growth through mergers and acquisitions, 16% said this was part of their current growth strategy. In addition, when asked how the pandemic has altered their views on merging or acquiring other firms, a fifth (21%) said it has made it more attractive, compared to only 14% in 2021.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Process and technology — the biggest challenge

Small law firms are thinking big when it comes to tech.

A third (33%) of respondents saying they have already invested in website development while an additional 30% said they plan to invest.

When asked which tech tools are currently in place, perhaps unsurprisingly, teleconferencing had the highest adoption rate at 79%. This was followed by legal research tools at 69%.

Interestingly, a quarter of respondents said they already have online portals for matter status updates and a further 11% said they are planning on introducing it in the next 24 months.

Process and Technology

Attracting and retaining talent — the war continues

Two-thirds of respondents said their law firms have invested or plan to invest in more lawyers.

We also asked legal experts how confident they are about competing for talent over the next 24 months. Half (53%) said they are only somewhat confident. 18% expressed doubts about finding the right lawyers.

When asked what they'd look for in a new role, work-life balance was ranked as the most important factor, followed closely by firm reputation.

Digital Competitiveness

Driving new business — online channels are growing

The most effective method of generating leads is through referrals — that's according to more than half of the survey respondents who revealed this to be their number source. Another popular method was upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Interestingly, online search and social media were also significant contributors to lead with many firms focussing their efforts here.

Working From Where?

Current performance vs. 3-4 years ago








Don’t know/ prefer not to say

Confidence looking forward






Not at all

5 year practice plan








Close/ Retire

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