If we are to make the most of the opportunity presented by the Legal Education and Training Review, we need to be clear about the background against which it is conducting its work. We also need to acknowledge the nature of some of the fundamental issues which must be addressed if the review is to be effective and command respect for its conclusions and recommendations.
Having spent more than 25 years of my life promoting the idea of ‘the business of law’ and the role of professional management in it, I commend the Institute of Legal Finance & Management for its mission and work. I also very much hope that its members share my excitement and enthusiasm as we approach 2012.
Interestingly, what we might describe as ‘the post-LSA world’ is not specifically driven by the Legal Services Act. The legislation and accompanying changes in regulation are now part of a much broader and deeper shift in the nature of 21st-century legal practice. The shift reflects fundamental changes arising in a mature legal economy working its inevitable way towards a new bargain with increasingly well-informed and sophisticated buyers of services in an over-supplied market. This bargain – and the pace of change – is accelerated by the financial crisis and the Act’s liberalising impetus; but these are accelerators rather than drivers. The change would have happened anyway.
Trying to describe change and challenges in the legal services market, and what the market might look like in five years’ time, represent a daunting test for the ten minutes I have. Of necessity I shall have to summarise and generalise. For those interested in more detail, the Legal Services Board’s research note published last month on the impact of alternative business structures on the market (see http://www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/news_publications/latest_news/2011/120811.htm) is an invaluable source of further analysis and insight.