The Future of Buying Legal Services

Introduction

I’m not going to try here* to cover the waterfront, but rather offer a few observations and reflections on the turn of events that prompts us to be considering so seriously the process that leads to the delivery of legal advice and representation to clients.

Part of the challenge here, it seems to me, lies in the nature of the four principal factors or ‘moving parts’ that form the backdrop to procurement. These are: cost; price; value; and relationship. There are different types of legal services – ranging from highly bespoke and ‘bet-the-company’ issues to routine, standardised and commoditised offerings. And there are different types of procurement – ranging from personal engagement, through professional procurement and tender processes, to buying online with no human interaction at all.

What is clear is that not all types of procurement are appropriate to all types of services. The real issue, as I see it, lies in the potential disconnects among cost, price, value and relationship. There is an inevitable tension between short-term procurement wins and longer-term legal or relationship consequences. There are times or circumstances when cost-cutting just isn’t worth it. Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

Rewind: a response to Solicitors Journal and Managing Partner

Yesterday, I gave a speech at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum about the future for legal services regulation.  Part of the question and answer session was reported (identically) by both Solicitors Journal and Managing Partner under the headline ‘Lawyers could have prevented the financial crisis, suggests Stephen Mayson’.  I did not say this, did not intend to say it, and the inference (based on what I did say) is completely false.  Despite my protestations, neither magazine has so far seen fit to change their story.  So here is my response.

Continue reading