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UK Business Law Market 2019 : Market Trends Report

  • ID: 4774645
  • Report
  • June 2019
  • Region: United Kingdom
  • 57 Pages
  • IRN Research
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Steady Growth in UK Business Law Market but Competition Intensifies


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UK-based business law firms and chambers generated revenues of around £16bn in 2018, an increase of 4.1% on 2017. Some of this revenue comes from overseas work and the UK market itself is worth between £11bn and £12bn.

Despite steady revenue growth in recent years, the business legal services market is an increasingly competitive one. Many clients of law firms have become competitors as well as clients as more legal work has been taken in-house. Other competitors include accountants, employment and HR consultants, online legal services, industry associations and business groups (although most of these are working with law firms to provide a service), and legal helplines. Alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) such as legal outsourcing companies, flexible lawyer businesses, and legal software and automation businesses, are taking some routine legal work away from law firms, plus starting to add new more added-value services. The larger UK business law firms are facing more competitive pressures from the Big Four accountancy firms – all of these now have separate legal businesses alongside their established business streams. Plus, US law firms expanding in London have provided even more competition.

The authors survey of 160 businesses – 80 large businesses and 80 SMEs – in early 2019 found that a majority expect their demands for legal services to remain the same in the next 18 months but over a third of large businesses and almost one in five small businesses are expecting an increase in their need for external legal advice.

This report also has a special feature on the growth of fixed-fee employment law services. While fixed fee services still only account for a relatively small percentage of the value of the overall employment law market, the number of firms offering these services is growing. The feature profiles the key services from 12 law firms and 15 employment and HR consultancies and advice services.

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1. Executive Summary

  • Market size and structure
  • Key sectors - general corporate/commercial work and litigation
  • Net increase in future demand for business legal services
  • Special feature – fixed fee employment law market
  • Market growth forecast but competition is set to intensify

2. Introduction

  • Overview of business law
  • Competitive threats

3. Market Structure and Trends

  • The structure of the market

4. Recent Developments

  • Brexit
  • Judiciary’s Commercial Court Annual Report re-appears in 2019
  • More commercial courts data for March 2018 to March 2019
  • General Counsel expecting lower fees, faster turnaround from the law firm IT
  • Published prices for some legal services for SMEs are here
  • Publishing price information would encourage SME use of legal advice
  • Contract lawyers market – more entrants, M&A activity and market listing
  • Alternative legal services providers
  • Survey of top 100 firms shows revenue growth but weaker profits

5. The Business Law Market

  • Turnover of over £16bn and a UK market worth around £12bn
  • A growing market but one that is increasingly competitive
  • Corporate/commercial law and litigation the main sectors

6. Business User Survey

  • Just over a quarter of businesses are regular users of external legal advisors
  • Most large firms use more than one law firm, most small firms use one
  • Employment, pensions, contracts – the main areas for legal advice
  • Different legal advisors for business and personal matters
  • Net increase in demand for legal services
  • Hourly rates still the fee model for a majority

7. The Future

  • Market forecasts
  • Competition to increase as in-house teams grow and ALSPs take more share
  • Controlling costs and fee pressures
  • More mergers

8. Corporate, Financial and Commercial Law

  • Economic trends/capital market movements drive the top end of the market
  • Global M & A activity decreases in 2018 although value increases
  • Domestic acquisitions and overseas activity by UK companies increase
  • Company insolvencies growing in the last three years
  • The number of commercial Chancery Division claims fall again in 2017
  • Commercial Court claims fall for the fourth year running
  • Shipping and maritime cases in the Admiralty Court stabilise
  • The number of technology and construction cases increased in the latest year

9. Employment Law

  • A market influenced by legal changes
  • Large rise in employment claims after tribunal fees abolished
  • Equal pay disputes are the largest area for tribunal work in 2017/18

10. B2B Law Feature – Fixed Fee Employment Law Services

  • Sector overview
  • Examples of law firms offering fixed fee services
  • Other employment law fixed fee services

11. International Litigation and Dispute Resolution

  • London, an international hub for litigation and mediation

12. Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks

  • Patents granted and trademark registrations continue to rise
  • Legal cases related to patents, trademarks and designs

13. Commercial Property Law

14. Associations

List of Figures
Figure 1 Business legal turnover of solicitors and barristers (£m), 2012-2018
Figure 2 Imports and exports of legal services (£m), 2013 - 2017
Figure 3 Estimated breakdown of the B2B turnover of solicitors and barristers, 2018
Figure 4 Frequency of using external legal advisors for B2B legal matters, 2019
Figure 5 Key areas of law where external legal advice needed, 2019
Figure 6 Likely future demand for external legal advice, 2019
Figure 7 Fees used for business legal services and preferred fee models, 2019
Figure 8 Business legal services market value forecast* (£m), 2018-2020
Figure 9 The number of acquisitions involving UK companies, Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2013 to Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018
Figure 10 The number of acquisitions involving UK companies, Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2013 to Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018
Figure 11 Indicators of legal work on company births and deaths, 2012-2018
Figure 12 Chancery Division: claims and originating proceedings issued in London of commercial, financial and corporate nature, 2012-2017
Figure 13 The number of Commercial Court cases, 2011-2017
Figure 14 Breakdown of Commercial Court cases by type of claim and value, 2017
Figure 15 Admiralty claims issued by nature of the action, 2012-2017
Figure 16 Number of claims received in the Technology and Construction Court, 2012-2017
Figure 17 Employment tribunal claims accepted, 2017/18 and 2018/19 1st -3rd quarters
Figure 18 Employment Tribunal - Total number of receipts by jurisdiction, 2012/13 to 2017/18
Figure 19 Law firms offering fixed fee employment services – some examples, 2019
Figure 20 HR consultancies offering fixed fee employment services – some examples, 2019
Figure 21 The caseload (referrals) of the London Court of International Arbitration, 2013-2018
Figure 22 Patent, trademark and design activity in the UK, 2013-2017
Figure 23 Chancery Division: Intellectual property claims and originating proceedings issued in London, 2012/2017
Figure 24 Non-residential property transactions in the UK, 2013-2018
Figure 25 Construction output in GB: Volume seasonally adjusted index, 2014-2018

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