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There are always plenty of people ready to take a swipe at the future of the legal industry, not least its own members. This is certainly understandable in the current climate with the government aggressively targeting the legal aid sector. Not only that but they’ve also been taking on the personal injury legal world with the referral fee ban and fixed costs in particular. But if you take a step back and look at the legal industry more objectively, in my view it’s not only one with a future overall but a bright one at that and therefore I wouldn’t be at all surprised if lawyer recruitment and legal jobs in London were in fact going well at present despite the headlines.
So what is it that provides such cause for long term optimism? Well, first off, there is the demand. In my view society will always need lawyers to help it tick over smoothly. They’ll be needed to write the new laws, to help define the existing laws and above all to help regulate disputes which may arise on any number of particular sets of factual variations.
Next, there is the talent. Despite the wisecracks, it’s a well-respected profession and attracts highly intelligent people into its fold. Not only that but when they arrive there are rigorous professional standards and norms such that the standard of both the training and the work itself is high.
Finally, there is a limited supply of good lawyers and that coupled with the strong demand for the services means that the price will only go so low. Though it should be remembered that the flip side of this is that there is a lot less optimism for those lawyers who don’t come within this bracket. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not just suggesting that the market would work this all out all by itself and certainly not that it’s all about price. Particularly when some of the best lawyers might be working pro bono or in an area where people simply can’t afford to pay them. But I am being optimistic that the market coupled with government and society in the longer term will work out solutions.
So what about the government cuts and all the other causes for pessimism? Well, I’d thoroughly agree with the substantive concerns which are raised in this respect. Indeed, my even bigger and far more serious concern is for the prospective clients who may end up falling through the net if society isn’t careful. But I still remain optimistic (or at least hopeful) for the longer term that society will indeed step in and support these groups of people. What’s more, whilst some lawyers will face at least short term difficulties, there may well be structural adjustments made which mean that in the medium to long term in fact they manage to survive.
So, yes, there is great cause for concern at present but overall and with a fair wind I’d also say that there is more cause for optimism about the long term future of the legal industry as a whole.