The arrival this year of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) for UK law firms feels like a typically dry subject for a profession that has a reputation for upright and conventional.
The truth is the change has the potential to be revolutionary – changing the way we use and access lawyers and introducing brands to the market. Previously law firms had to be owned by lawyers, now any organisation can provide legal services with non-lawyer involvement at management level or as an owner or investor, so long as it is granted licence by the Law Society or other approved awarding bodies.
It has been labelled the Tesco law despite the fact that Tesco have shown no interest in entering the market. The Co-operative Group on the other hand was one of the first organisations to be granted a new ABS licence. This means that law firms will have to adapt to withstand the pressures of competition from organisations that know all about effective marketing. They will have to review their business models and can’t continue to rely on word of mouth recommendation as their only route to new business.
Getting to grips with online and digital will also be vital for the larger firms. Let’s be honest most people don’t use solicitors on a daily basis so when they do and they enter “solicitor+my home town” into Google they might see some local firms in the top results, but not for much longer if the new national players have their way.