For a company based in Scotland and making a steady invasion of English territory, a cry of ‘Freedom’ probably brings to mind faces painted blue, massive swords and bad 80s hair. But let’s not jump to stereotyping….the freedom of which I speak is somewhat unusual. It’s the news of freedom to come when the new regulations from the SRA are released.
I was recently asked to speak at an event hosted by Katie Jackson of Honne, and the key theme of the conference was the effect of the new regs. There were erudite speakers from the world of compliance and regulation, as well as an informative and energetic review of the likely rules from Chris Hanford of the SRA.
And then there was me….
Chatting with Katie about the themes in advance of the event, it occurred to me that such regulatory relaxation is not new. It is also the case that for solicitors from my era (ancient, dusty, pre-email, pre-Blackberry even) there have been plenty of examples of changing regulation over the last twenty years. And if there is a common theme from such regulatory change it is that it always breeds opportunity.
For me the best example is Employment Services- once a mainstay sector for many law firms, and yet since the regulations changed as to who can deliver those services, in came Citation, Peninsula and numerous other providers, fundamentally changing the way the law firms viewed that market. More importantly perhaps, the way the market viewed their purchase of those legal services altered irrevocably too. Hourly rates no more….membership schemes, insurance backing, HR offerings…a whole new way of delivering the requirements to clients. An expectation from the clients that there was a better way to procure those services. Firms that didn’t react have seen a huge drop in employment work… When it comes to changing regulation, you snooze, you lose!
There are many other examples- the rise of the virtual law firms, the ability to advertise legal services, the whole ABS regulation piece. Many of the relaxations in the past have resulted in openings for non-legal, commercial entities. To date those entities, when they’ve really tried hard, have taken chunks out of the traditional bread and butter of most law firms. Wills writing on line. Volume conveyancing businesses. Personal injury ‘factories’.
The regulations about to land will offer even more opportunity for non-law firms to enter the market. One thing is certain, those new commercial entities will come after the market with business acumen, with deep pockets and with tenacity. How will you respond?
Alex Holt, Director of Business Development at The Cashroom Ltd