Is the BigLaw business model sustainable?

This is the question that I was recently given five minutes to answer! This post is intended as a more expanded response. It begs some prior questions about what we mean by ‘BigLaw’, ‘business model’ and ‘the BigLaw business model’. But [spoiler alert] the short and long answers are the same: it doesn’t look like it.

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Sweet ’16? Cakes, deckchairs and running fast

(An edited version of this post first appeared in The Times‘s The Brief on 8 January 2016)

As 2015 slides inexorably into 2016, we can ponder what differences this might bring to the world of legal services. The sands are definitely shifting, and the foundations of ‘old law’ continue to crumble as ‘new law’ takes greater hold. Let me explore three themes: demand, supply, and independence.

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Clementi 10 years on (and now for the next 10)

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of Sir David Clementi’s final report on the regulatory framework for legal services in England & Wales.  How time flies!  The report is still a good read, and a helpful reminder of what needed to change – and why.

The report laid the foundations for the Legal Services Act 2007 (even though the Act went further on alternative business structures than Sir David was willing to recommend).  Its principal aims can be summarised as:

  • creating the Legal Services Board and establishing the principle of regulation that is independent from professional representation
  • improving the way in which – and the speed with which – complaints against legal services providers are handled, including setting up the Office for Legal Complaints and the Legal Ombudsman
  • liberalising the business structures through which lawyers can operate by permitting ownership and investment by individuals who have not qualified as lawyers, and allowing legal businesses access to external capital.

All of these primary objectives have been achieved – more or less.  So what now?

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