Law in the 21st Century

The Law21 blog, and this post in particular, should be compulsory reading for any member of the British legal profession. The focus on new provision of legal services tends to concentrate on work for individuals – divorces, probate, and so on. In employment law circles however the change is already happening. First Assist, Peninsula, Croner Consulting, EEF and the rest are hardly household names but between them conduct a huge part of Respondents’ litigation in the tribunals.

Many employers simply want to pay an annual premium and be insured against any claims they receive. Any large employer, even if it is well behaved, will receive a claim one day,  and fewer and fewer of these are farmed out to traditional law firms and counsel. If you are a commercial company who has sold an insurance policy then it makes much more financial sense to hire staff yourselves to conduct litigation and advocacy than to farm it out. Why? Because you retain the profit margin. Without any SRA or Bar Council regulation you can also be ultra-competitive in your hourly rates which means you achieve a better loss ratio for the insurance company.

Counsel still have their place for complex cases, or for where you simply must have a bum sat on a tribunal seat somewhere far away at very short notice, but as the Law21 blog notes: traditional law firms must forge alliances with the larger providers if they are to retain the work.

Employment is ahead of the game as tribunals don’t require a special right of audience, and (insured) work can therefore be undertaken by companies without any form of regulation at all. Once Alternative Business Structures and “soft-touch” regulation comes then all manner of commercial legal areas will go the same way, and it’ll be sink or swim for law firms and lawyers. Being legally qualified will be no guarantee of a place in the new order.

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