The view from the consultant lawyers’ market: where are we now?
Things have moved on since “new model” law firms first hit the scene a few years ago. These pioneer legal services providers aimed to disrupt the market by offering a new, modern way for solicitors to practise law as consultants, outside of the traditional models.
From a lawyer’s perspective, the benefits of the consultancy model include increased autonomy, greater flexibility, a more benign culture away from targets and internal politics and often better income (depending on the client-base and the hours worked).
At Nexa, our aim is to facilitate the consultancy model through our back-office service offerings to our consultants, including accounts, insurance, regulatory compliance, and access to resources, such as a cloud-based case management system, practical law, and virtual personal assistants. We can also offer marketing assistance and have referral schemes delivering work and fees to Nexa lawyers.
Consultant lawyers now offer a genuine alternative to clients looking for legal services solutions beyond private practice models and in-house support. The consultancy model has proved itself as an effective alternative. However, there is still work to be done on gaining full acceptance in the marketplace.
Are businesses open to instructing consultant lawyers?
There are barriers to persuading clients to give up their tried and tested legal service providers and do something different. These include a nervousness about consultants’ capacity and ability to scale up and unfamiliarity with a consultant lawyer and their brand – leading to pressure to fall back on a well-known law firm.
Often SMEs are more open minded about using a consultant; those who can build good relationships and deliver a high-quality service to clients can break through.
Clients can often get better value from a consultant because work is not being passed down to a more junior lawyer, the client gets an experienced adviser without the hidden costs attributable to the overheads of a large firm. This can be a great selling point at times when clients are particularly conscious of budgets.
What does the competitive landscape look like for firms in the UK consultancy law market?
As the market has evolved, a distinction has opened between two limbs of consultancy law; on the one hand we have the pool of lawyers on demand who provide capacity support to law firms and in-house teams, and on the other, platforms like Nexa’s for lawyers who build their own “law firm” brands and win their own clients. There are different factors affecting each limb.
Well known larger brands, such as Keystone Law in the UK and Rimon in the US, set up this marketplace. However, are these platforms becoming more like law firms of old and individuals within them are losing their personal “law firm” identities? This may result in the distinction between consultancy and traditional law becoming blurred – although that may well be their intention so that they can compete head on with private practice partnerships. We at Nexa certainly see ourselves as a collaborator with traditional law rather than a competitor.
There is also the likelihood that the rise in the number of consultant law firms may, eventually, result in this new market becoming oversaturated and lead to a period of consolidation. However, we believe this is a year or two off yet.
Where do we go from here?
Greater competition between platforms for high-quality lawyers looking to become consultants is inevitable and it will be very interesting to see what happens as the market for legal services cools as we go into recession. To continue to attract the best talent, Nexa is determined to keep improving its offering and how it supports its consultants. We are focusing on our USP and to answer the question, why Nexa? This extends way beyond our market leading fee share rates to encompass choice, culture, community and giving the lawyers, our customers, the chance to make a positive difference to their industry and society as a whole.
–Nigel Clark, CEO