Published on August 19, 2016
Most business owners want easily accessible expert legal advice. However, competition from unregulated providers of legal services and alternative financial and business advisors means that the role of trusted advisor is no longer the sole preserve of commercial counsel. How can lawyers and law firms meet that challenge?
Larger corporations have long had the benefit of in house counsel – being unfettered by the margins and budgets that smaller businesses have to deal with. The regulatory and legal environment for businesses, small or large is now ever more demanding and therefore the need for legal access for businesses verges on acute at times: loss of income, damage to reputation, fines and employment issues are all problems Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) often face.
The SME market by any stretch of the imagination is significant – representing 99% of all businesses, employing in excess of 14 million people and turning over £1,000,000,000,000.
The explosion in DIY law on-line has been one response. And it is no bad thing. Business owners who were previously unable to access legal advice are now better placed to find information and consider their own needs. There is a degree of empowerment which will push law firms to be more pro-active and client focused in a way which was previously not driven by real commercial factors.
Where DIY law does not work – virtual and flexible working law firms can step into this breach – being able to offer cost effective advice from solicitors. As regulated practices, law firms have the benefit of being insured and offer the additional benefit of being able to draw on a pool of talent. By opting for outsourcing only, a business can go for the expert service they need. The service must maintain its quality in order to keep a returning client.
As with any other business, law firms must remain competitive in terms of their performance, rates, and the flexibility of their service offering. By competing in the same commercial environment and adapting structures and pricing to meet the challenges of maintaining client relationships and regard as trusted advisors, there is a great opportunity for law firms to be leaders and influencers of how commercial services are to be offered in an era when legal knowledge, not lawyers are needed.
Alternative Business Structures may not quite have worked in the way that it was hoped, but the change in the regulatory and commercial environment will lead legal professionals to be able to work with other like-minded lawyers – encouraging team building, knowledge sharing and collaboration.
The rise of creative client focused solutions by collaborative professionals cannot be a bad thing.
Bhavini is a Solicitor by background, and trained and worked in top law firms before setting up The London Law Practice, an innovative entrant to the legal sector specialising in helping businesses. The London Law Practice works with small and medium sized businesses, acting in both commercial and dispute matters.
Bhavini is also a regular contributor to a local newspaper, and is a keen supporter of charitable causes and remains engaged with associations working with businesses and business owners.