2019 has been an year of uncertainty across many sectors, with Brexit not yet reaching a conclusion and set to drag on into the new year. The legal sector is one such affected, with concerns surrounding mutual access for lawyers in the UK and EU member states, respect for choice of jurisdiction clauses across the EU and legal certainty throughout the withdrawal process among those highlighted on the Law Society website. Back in August when a “no deal” was a potential outcome, it was estimated that this would put 10,000 jobs at risk and take £35bn out of the sector. Definitely a year of stresses, will 2020 be any rosier?
According to a recent study conducted by public accounting, consulting and technology firm Crowe, 2020 should be a more positive year for the legal sector, even with the overall UK economy facing the threat of a downturn. With a lot of firms having spent the last 18 months preparing and managing their operations and teams to adapt to a potential “no deal”, EU free economy, focus can now shift to improving delivery, new structures and boosting aspects of the business within their control.
Overall, it is widely thought that 2020 will be “business as usual” for the legal sector; to drill down the numbers:
- 44% – 2020 to be no different, and certainly no worse, than 2019
- 17% – 2020 will be a better year than 2019
- 56% – 2020 to be no different, and certainly no worse, than 2019
- 20% – 2020 will be a better year than 2019
60% across both city and regional firms were positive about the year ahead.
Many firms hope to grasp new opportunities in 2020, especially in the regulatory segment, which has already seen an upturn in consultancy to work with changing laws on import and exporting procedures.
Many will also take the opportunity to firm up their policies on remote working, partly as this allows flexibility within the workplace and also to ensure any members of staff are affected by Brexit are still able to work if they cannot get to the workplace. Firms who have not yet finalised their remote working plans would be well advised to do so as we head into the new year.
The top business risks facing the legal sector, quite apart from Brexit uncertainty, are:
- Staff retention
- Lack of skills for recruitment
- Fraud resilience
Legal firms will need to ensure they future proof into 2020 to guard against these potential threats; good recruitment, staff training, investment in security and technology will be the key ways to keep firms growing and serving their customers.