The Legal Sector: How Can You Navigate Its Complexities?

Joel Topham, Head of Professional Practices and author of blog about navigating the complexities of the legal sector

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In the rapidly evolving landscape of the legal sector, law firms are constantly having to stay ahead of the curve and find ways to navigate the challenges they face.  

So, what are the major challenges being faced by the sector at the moment? And how are law firms finding ways to mitigate these challenges, as well as the opportunities available? 

CHallenges for the legal sector: RISING COSTS & REGULATORY SCRUTINY 

Inflationary pressures and skyrocketing costs are putting immense strain on firms. It’s clear that the legal sector is currently suffering from above-average inflation cost rises. According to the Bank of England, average wage inflation for those in the legal sector is above 6%, in comparison to the headline rate of 4% inflation in the economy as a whole, meaning that law firms have been hit particularly hard in this area. 

The other area where law firms are currently seeing a significant increase in costs is their accounting software. Moreover, the SRA has increased scrutiny and more frequent inspection for anti-money laundering (AML) and know your client (KYC) regulations in recent years necessitating stringent regulatory compliance and monitoring, increasing the industries’ burden. 

IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES: STRATEGIC INITIATIVES & THOUGHT LEADERSHIP 

Amidst the challenges, however, there are glimmers of hope and opportunity. Many law firms have welcomed the increase in interest rates providing additional income and cash flow over the last 12 months as banks finally pass on the returns to their clients. An increase in suppliers will also hopefully bring a softening in the PI market for 2024 (or at least that’s what’s being said at this moment in time). Forward-thinking firms are exploring ways to deal with the challenges they face. Looking ahead, the focus is shifting to strategic initiatives and thought leadership.  

For example, in response to the sector’s wage inflation, firms are finding other ways to reward their employees, such as introducing Electric Vehicle salary sacrifice schemes, innovative bonus structures, private healthcare and other, similar initiatives, with the help and advice of employee benefit specialists. Recently, a burgeoning legal tech movement has developed from Leeds and is spreading across the UK, presenting promising avenues for innovation and growth. There are significant opportunities for law firms in this area to differentiate themselves from their competitors and to drive efficiencies for their clients. 

The rise in software costs also creates an opportunity to re-examine how you are using your software and what value it is adding to your processes. This does not simply mean moving onto the latest cloud software package (beware most do not offer the same benefits as more established providers and can severely impact reporting capabilities for management). Instead, there is the opportunity to look at internal structures and processes to determine whether technology could do more (or less) to better serve your clients’ needs or reduce environmental impacts by reducing paper and data storage. 

SIGNPOSTING FUTURE REGULATION 

Prompted by recent interventions and current investigations the SRA has launched a discussion paper, that went live on the 5th of February. This signals potential regulatory changes and so we urge for proactive engagement from all law professionals. The last time the SRA published a paper of this kind in 2016, it resulted in wholesale changes to the Solicitor’s Code of Conduct and the Accounts Rules. So, it’s crucial that law professionals carefully read over this paper and take the opportunity to give feedback before the response deadline which is the 5th of July. Sagars will be preparing our own response to the consultation in support of the profession too.

STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE BY EMBRACING INNOVATION 

In a dynamic and ever-changing sector like the legal sector, staying ahead of the curve is imperative. By leveraging insights, embracing innovation, and fostering strategic partnerships professionals can chart a course towards sustained growth and success. With the support of experienced advisors with a comprehensive understanding of industry dynamics and a commitment to client success, firms in the legal sector can overcome obstacles and thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

With over 19 years’ experience, Head of Professional Practices Joel Topham, is also a member of the ICAEW‘s Solicitor Specialist Community and is involved in setting best practice for advisers to the legal sector. Joel’s significant experience and future-focused approach make him well-placed to help legal firms navigate the challenges faced by the legal sector at the moment, as well as seize the opportunities currently available. 

To find out more about how we can help with navigating challenges and seizing opportunities, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Joel Topham, or your usual AAB contact. 

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