14 Sep Regional Law firms need bolder approach as they fall further behind City big boys
A respected report has shown that almost two-thirds of regional law firms are failing to meet their performance targets, with 40% saying equity partner profits are falling.
For regional firms, this is the key finding of a new benchmarking survey by accountants, Crowe Clark Whitehill.
Whilst many regional firms struggle, the City is ignoring the threat posed by Brexit, with over 90% of practices reporting increasing revenue and four in ten saying partner profits are up by over 10%.
The survey showed that in the regions, one in five firms saw revenue fall in the latest financial year and only 28% saw income rise by over 10%, compared to 41% in 2016 and 52% two years ago.
Further analysis shows that competition in the regions continues to be tight, with more market share taken by fewer firms.
So what does this all mean?
The statistics can be endlessly pored over, but what we found noteworthy was that some 43% of regional firms cited availability of high-quality staff as their biggest challenge.
This is not new. For many years, the newest and most ambitious graduates want the fast pace of one of the world’s most important cities – London, but there have always been and still are many good lawyers who want to work in other parts of the UK.
This is where there is an opportunity. The capital is expensive, hours are long, and the culture can be ruthless, so perhaps emphasis on quality of life and flexibility away from the smoke is something worth pressing? After all, the latest generation certainly don’t want to work in the same way their parents did.
It’s not the 1980s anymore. Studies have shown that new talent entering the market place want work life balance and flexibility. And, from what we’ve seen, cities like Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool etc. have a lot to offer.
What has to be noted though is that the modern solicitor needs to have passion and also the entrepreneurial skills, which arguably his or her predecessor didn’t possess. It’s a very different legal landscape.
Our view is that law firms have to recruit with this in mind, looking for those who have the skills to innovate and look at the new terrain with a fresh perspective. They need to reach out in these high-tech times to clients that wants more from their legal service provider in a way that was alien to their predecessors.
In recent years, many firms have found it difficult to adjust to the changing world, meaning practices that once were the staple part of towns up and down the country have closed their doors.
It need not be the case in many situations, but acting too late is not an option.
The support is out there to get regional practices back on track, be it through recruitment, business analysts or external communication agencies. However, this means having the foresight to tackle these issues now.
This report cannot be an excuse to fail. So look at what you’re doing to attract the brightest talent. The best brains will often be lured to the bright lights, but that doesn’t mean the rest have to live in the dark.
We hope you found this useful. Nolan PR is a communications agency specialising in supporting law firms. If you wish to talk to us, we are happy to see if we can help.