The future of legal services
Legal services in the UK are under pressure from all sides and the industry is going through some large-scale changes. The Beesley lecture on 'The future of legal services' focused on the effects of the Legal Services Act in enabling legal services to be provided by new business forms, but also picked up on other factors which are reshaping the market. For example, pressures on legal aid budget, reforms of the civil court system and the promotion of alternative forms of dispute resolution, and the influence of new technologies.
The speakers said that these changes would herald significant changes in the structure of the legal services sector as the rewards for innovation increase, services are commoditised and new sources of capital emerge. But he also said that these changes could offer great opportunities for firms who are able to take advantage of the new freedoms to establish trusted brands and satisfy customers.
The following debate confirmed the view that the shape of the legal 'high street' could soon become quite different. There was less agreement about whether and how other parts of the sector would be affected, but some were concerned about the risks presented by the changes for the international competitiveness of the UK legal sector.