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Lexis+ AI
Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Challenges and opportunities

Challenges and opportunities


Now is as exciting a time as any to be a lawyer in the City.

Now is as exciting a time as any to be a lawyer in the City.

The looming referendum on the UK’s future in Europe, the advance of artificial intelligence for some of the more routine legal processes, and the continued pressure of increased competition make the 25,000 City solicitors’ work all the more interesting and provide the challenges that we thrive on.

The larger City firms will no doubt have done their own research into the implications of a Brexit – or otherwise – for their clients and their firms. For the savvy solicitors looking at the possible impact on the wider legal services sector, I would recommend two reports as homework: ‘The EU and the legal sector’, which follows research with law firms, including in the City, and an independent analysis from Oxford Economics showing that the legal services sector would be disproportionately disadvantaged compared to the whole UK economy in the event of a Brexit.

There is also the ‘Future of legal services’ report, published in January, which examines the opportunities open to firms over the next five years.

Some of these will be significant for the City. Corporate buyers of legal services are increasingly focused on value, which can mean fixed fees and greater transparency on pricing. They are also increasingly willing to unbundle their requirements for legal services and source different elements from different providers. In-house legal departments looking to reduce their total legal spend are finding new ways of working with external providers.

While alternative business structures (ABSs) are not a new concept, the prediction of an ABS avalanche has not materialised. Of the ABSs that have been set up, many are run by solicitors who are finding new, innovative ways of doing business and adapting to provide services matched to their clients’ needs.

Clients value the professionalism, ethics, and reputation that come with using a solicitor. Firms need to capitalise on that strong brand, while looking to technology to free up solicitors from some of the more routine tasks of due diligence and document comparison. Junior lawyers pulling all-nighters while preparing documents for the boardroom table, something often portrayed in films and programmes like the US drama Suits, will soon be a thing of the past. Lawyers will also need to embrace new technology to keep up with their clients, who are already using it.

Finally, online dispute resolution will not spell the end of the role of the trusted litigator, who will continue to be needed in the many cases where there is an imbalance between parties or personal issues.

The benefits of technology are not just for the clients: solicitors will have more scope for flexible working and those specialising in niche areas will have the opportunity to build a global footprint without an international network of offices.

The future is bright for legal services in the City. The opportunities are there if we continue to look for them and innovate to provide a first-class, bespoke service for our clients.

Stephen Denyer is the head of City and international at the Law Society

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