David Snell, PwC: Our latest Law Firms’ Survey considers the future outlook and trends for law firms.
Last year our survey highlighted the pace of change in the legal sector. This year we see an acceleration of that change against the backdrop of a strong year for the sector as a whole. Overall, firms have responded quickly and are showing considerable resilience through change.
So what do our findings show?
Firstly, the way clients procure legal services is having a profound impact on the sector. . Hourly rate arrangements (in the UK at least) are becoming much less common, with fixed fees managed by procurement teams now to the fore. Alongside this, e-billing processes are slowing down working capital cycles to unsustainably high levels.
For Top 25 firms, fee earner numbers have, on average, fallen - as firms strive to improve productivity and leverage from efficiency measures and investment in new technologies.
Much of the new cutting edge technology however remains very much in the pilot stage and unlocking the true value of this investment is yet to be fully realised. And in the meantime, the threat of Cyber attack is at a critical level and presents one of the most significant risks to law firms.
Finally, with Brexit looming large on the horizon, levels of uncertainty continue to increase. Whilst the overriding sentiment is that of resilience through change, law firms need to continue to look to the future, ensuring they continue to adapt to a rapidly changing world.