Recently I came across some research by the Law Society that suggested globalisation and the rise of technology will write off the local solicitor.
From my perspective I couldn’t disagree more with this report. I look at this from the point of view of running my own small firm and also acting as a director of SFE nationally.
I run a small practice on the high street based in Somerset and in the seven years we have been trading it has thrived. I am also a director of SFE and we have a national membership of lawyers that range from small practitioners to some of the largest national firms.
People have been saying for the last 10 years that the high street solicitor is dying, when in fact a lot of firms are doing really well. I have seen first-hand how a number of smaller firms are actively utilising the latest digital and technological methods to market themselves. Like any other industry, I’m not saying things are easy and you can sit back and expect the work to just come in. Those days are long gone. It takes time to plan things well and implement sound business principles, and I think many small practices recognise this.
Our bank manager told us an interesting story about how the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) conducted a survey looking at the financial stability of law firms. The authority thought that it would show that smaller firms are particularly vulnerable, however it showed the opposite, that in fact the larger organisations were the more vulnerable ones. In recognition of the fact that smaller firms are doing well and to support them, in 2014 the SRA set up a dedicated division of their support service. Paul Philip from the SRA on the launch of the service to smaller firms said: “Small firms play a really important part in the provision of good legal services and we want to do everything we can to provide support. We are committed to making sure that our regulation works for all types of firm and to do that we need to be much more approachable and accessible.”
I think it’s perhaps more appropriate to conclude that the role of the modern lawyer is adapting and changing as the industry evolves. With the right business plan, offering opportunities to younger lawyers, and inward investment, a smaller firm can thrive.
As an organisation, we at SFE recognise the challenges faced by our members and one of the ways we have helped them stand out as experienced lawyers is the launch of our accreditation.
The idea that small, local high street law firms are archaic and out of date is a myth. SFE places great emphasis on the personal relationship and trust we build with our clients. We are not anonymous individuals hiding behind a national band; we offer a face-to-face service for local clients, which emphasises some of the traditional values associated with our profession.
Partner at Acorn Solicitors
David Sinclair is a Somerset resident, father of three and is the Chairman of SFE.
In 2009 he was shortlisted for young lawyer of the year in the UK.
He is passionate about helping local people secure a top-level legal service that is good value for money.