What will happen to us lawyers?

Blogs June 14, 2013


The legal services industry is changing at an increasing pace. Legal service providers will need to adapt their practices and build new kind of productized services, approaches and pricing models. Especially in markets where legal services are open for competition, such as Australia, England, Finland and Sweden, we are seeing very interesting developments and new players emerging.

In October 2011, after years of speculation by many in the legal fraternity, the Legal Services Act came into force in the UK. This for the first time allowed non-lawyers to own or invest in law firms (and law firms to even float on a stock exchange), subject to regulatory approval granted by either the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. This opened the legal market for competition and innovation. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has completed its first year authorizing and regulating alternative business structures (ABS). More than 400 firms have started the application process and more than 150 firms have been licensed.

The first law firm to list on a stock exchange was not, however, a UK one as that credit went to Slater & Gordon (S&G). They listed on the Australian stock exchange ASX in 2007 following similar relaxation of the ownership rules around law firms in Australia. Slater &Gordon has also bought up a major UK practice Russell Jones & Walker.

As a result of the liberalization in the UK, many interesting businesses with a fresh approach to practicing law have been established. One of the most interesting new players in the UK (and the US) in my mind is Riverview Law . They were established in 2011 and have grown rapidly and been bringing in innovative services to the market. There are many other players worth a closer look, e.g. one of the best-known legal brands in the US, an online legal document service called LegalZoom and its rival, the US service called Rocket Lawyer that has financial backing from Google. If you want to know where the legal industry is going, the UK market is definitely worth following.

What’s ahead?

The changing landscape for lawyers has raised some concern, maybe even panic, among the legal fraternity. Lawyers are trying to find out what the future holds for them.

One of the thought leaders in the legal industry is Richard Susskind who has been very accurately predicting the development and challenges of this industry. In his latest book, Richard claims that legal institutions and lawyers are poised to change more radically over the next two decades than they have over the last two centuries. The future of legal service will be a world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs, and new employers, for lawyers.

Fondia is a law firm from this century. We have been combining the best parts of in-house and external legal services, looking for new opportunities and inviting customers to develop our services for them. In the last six years we have grown from 1 million euro revenue to ten million last year. We’ve launched pioneering e-tools for more efficient management of legal affairs together with several productized services, of which our fixed-priced (150 or 500 euro/month) legal support for small start-up companies is a great example. Our legal department service provides a combination of in-house legal service with the best parts of external counseling, delivering excellent quality proactive legal services to companies who do not need or want to hire a whole in-house counsel. With a fixed monthly fee you can buy e.g. services corresponding to '20% of a lawyer'.

Rewriting the Legal Industry Summit – join the discussion

Fondia’s mission is “Rewriting the legal industry”. Accordingly, we will continue to question existing practices in the legal industry and adapt our service offering to meet the needs of our clients and the market. We continuously monitor what’s happening around the world and keep an eye on silent (and loud) signals for change.

The ongoing changes and future trends of the legal industry will also be the topic for our Rewriting the Legal Summit that takes place on August 28 in Helsinki. We’re very excited to have Richard Susskind as our key-note speaker and I look forward to hearing his ideas and opinions on what's ahead for us lawyers. The event ends with a panel discussion, where we discuss more examples of new kinds of legal services from around the world. I am extremely happy that our international panelists Karl Chapman, the CEO of Riverview Law and Philippe Xavier-Bender from Gide Loyrette Nouel will be able to join us.

I, for one, can’t wait for the event, which will be highlight of my year. In case you’d like to participate in the event and have not received your personal invitation, pop me a message (at jorma.vartia@fondia.fi ) with a short reasoning on why you should be invited, and I’ll get back to you. We have reserved a few seats for people who can bring new ideas to the discussion or who can otherwise give a convincing argument on why she or he should be invited.