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The more things change?

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This week I attended the installation of the Master Cutler, the annual appointment of the leader of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.  Many of you will be familiar with this Sheffield institution, formed back in the mists of time but which now finds itself representing manufacturing in a wider sense in the local region.  The installation has all the formality and ceremony you would expect from an organisation which dates back several centuries, including obscure oaths taken by the new officers (who also enjoy entertainingly curious titles such as ‘Assistant Warden’ or ‘Searcher’).

What struck me though was the challenge the Company finds itself facing in making sure it remains relevant to its members in an ever-changing global economy.  To a certain extent this is a challenge which faces us all and without being too melodramatic about it, is one which the legal profession needs to grasp head on if it is to survive and prosper.

When you combine the effect of the Legal Services Act (and I see that both SAGA and the AA have announced that they plan to offer legal services, which shows the scale of the likely new entrants to the market) with the ban on referral  and success fees in PI work, it is no exaggeration to say that law firms will need to go about their business in a fundamentally different way to ensure that they are not a victim of the changes.  I firmly believe that this means listening to our clients even more so that we respond to what services they want us to offer and just as importantly how we deliver them.

No-one knows what the legal market will look like in 5 years time, but we all know it will be very different.  Your view of the merits of the changes will depend on your view of the legal profession and whether you believe as a lawyer you will be able to adapt to them and succeed in the new world.  The Company of Cutlers have managed to do that for over 3 centuries, now let us see if law firms can do the same.

Posted: 08/10/2012 09:15:07
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