Law firms are experiencing ‘serious difficulties’ in overcoming the operational challenge caused by Covid-19 and deregulation, in spite of a ‘reasonably buoyant’ market for legal services, according to new research.
A survey by legal consulting firm, Viv Williams Consulting (VWC) has revealed just how challenging and complicated the picture for law firms has become in 2020.
An audit, conducted by the consultancy team, shows just how varied the task for law firms has become during the course of this year.
Viv Williams recently assembled a team to provide law firms with the help they need to navigate through the difficult times ahead. As part of the project, VWC conducted an audit, across the whole consultancy, the results of which indicate where firms have been focusing their attentions.
The results make interesting reading with Covid-19 disrupting clients, revenues and business-as-usual in ways that would have been unthinkable nine months ago.
The research notes that:
- More than 60% of law firms in the audit have furloughed staff since the pandemic began and, of those, half do not expect to re-employ their full complement in the future.
- 45% have permanently laid-off back-office and ancillary personnel.
- 75% have cut-back or stopped marketing spend.
- 35% are considering closing or disposing of their firm.
- 45% are looking at options to restructure or redevelop their business (including acquisition of all or part of other firms to enhance their own position).
- Only 20% of firms think that their firm will remain unchanged.
“The pressure on law firms to manage their fee-earning workforce is increasingly challenging and being exacerbated, for many, by remote working.”
“I have been helping law firms drive their businesses forward for more than two decades but have never seen times like these.
“Law firms uphold the importance of the rule of law and help define who we are as a country, but they urgently need to adapt if they are to continue to thrive given the multiple changes that are upon us.
I see many firms who simply don’t know what to do but who, similarly, know that doing nothing is no longer an option. Even firms who are not at immediate risk can see that they need to change.”
More detailed investigation from Williams revealed the significant challenges that firm share, and areas of particular focus for leaders, including:
- Maintaining and managing client contact: this work is now ‘falling disproportionately on fee-earners and absorbing time whilst reducing overall billings’.
- Managing cash-flow and cash management – reportedly a major preoccupation as the research states many law firms are finding their existing processes wanting.
- Compliance and regulatory management, notably in an environment where many personnel are working remotely and/or furloughed. This, VWC claims, is exacerbated by complex and difficult insurance renewals.
- Internal communication problems are likely where senior management is overwhelmed by the tactical issues associated with keeping business operations working normally.
- Managing a firm with different pressures on different practice areas are becoming a strategic problem.
- Business development and long-term strategic objectives are being lost as the focus on day-to-day tactical management absorbs all resources and attention.
VWC suggests its research shows there is considerable evidence that fee-earners are taking this time to make decisions about their own futures, which could also lead to a management headache in 2021.
For any law firm that would like a confidential discussion with Viv Williams Consulting, on matters from finance to mergers and acquisitions, a potential sale or management matters, please visit vivwilliamsconsulting.co.uk