Lawyers need ‘strong dose of humility’, according to new research

Whilst almost one third of lawyers reckon they offer excellent value for money, only one in 10 clients agree. This was one of the findings in legal publisher LexisNexis’s annual Bellwether Report published yesterday.

According to the new research, which drew on interviews with 122 independent lawyers and 108 clients, more than half of solicitors (56%) said they had a clear understanding of their clients’ needs whereas less than a third of clients (32%) agreed; and 30% of lawyers thought that they were offering excellent value for money compared to just 8% of clients.

‘Lawyers are almost twice as likely to feel they perform “very well’” in each area compared to clients whose average ‘very well’ score is only 23%,’ the report said. ‘This suggests the need for a strong dose of humility, alongside rigorous internal analysis, if law firms are to survive in a client-driven market.’

Just over one in five lawyers (21%) described their level of confidence for their firms looking forward as ‘very good’; this was considerably down from 2015 and 2014 (30% and 26% respectively). Just under half of lawyers reported that their practices had seen some growth over the last three to four years (48%); however the report noted that the mood was ‘remarkably less bullish’ than 2015 (63%). ‘Whatever the future holds, there is no doubt that lawyers are feeling more challenged than they were last year.’ the report said.

This ‘climate of renewed vulnerability’ was ‘underlined by the almost unanimous (95%) sense’ that there were ‘still rough times ahead for law firms’. ‘The fact that just under 60% “strongly agree” with this statement reinforces just how deep-seated it is,’ the report said.

Professor Stephen Mayson, in his introduction, wrote that the report provided evidence of what he called the ‘grand delusion… essentially, a culture that is out of tune with the market and a broken business model’; and an ‘enduring tendency’ in law firms to ‘blame external factors: Government policy, competitors, regulators, and even clients’.

‘The news that this delusion still persists is disappointing. Tinkering around the edges of the cost base and blaming others for the rest, rather than tackling some possibly uncomfortable home truths, will not address it and secure a sound future.’
Prof Stephen Mayson

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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