2021 UK Legal Services Market Report Published

08 Mar 2021

UK legal services market revenue on hold in 2020 but most legal professionals are optimistic about the next 12 months

  • The UK legal services market (including private practice firms, barristers, patent agents, and other legal services providers) was valued at almost £37bn in 2020, unchanged from 2019. In the first three-quarters of 2020 revenue decreased by 1.5% compared to the previous year mainly due to a decline in the first lockdown. In the last quarter of 2020, revenue increased.
  • The number of law firms in the UK stands at just below 12,000. In England and Wales incorporated companies now account for half of all law firm business models. So far, COVID-19 has not led to significant numbers of law firm closures but 2021 is likely to see more as furlough ends in Autumn and restructuring in some sectors gathers pace.
  • By far the largest segment in the UK market is legal work for business and commercial affairs (including commercial property) accounting for 46% of total UK market revenue and most of the high-value work in this segment is undertaken by the larger law firms. The largest segment in the consumer law market is personal injury/accident/medical negligence work valued at £4bn although this sector has seen a decline in revenue in 2020. Family law and employment law are the next largest segments, followed by wills and probate and conveyancing.
  • The fifth annual set of results from our survey of 222 legal practitioners is included in this report. These practitioners work in four consumer law areas: conveyancing; family law; personal injury; wills and probate. A majority of practitioners in most consumer legal sectors reported volume growth in the last 12 months although the “last 12 months” covers a five month period before the pandemic and seven months post-March 2020. However, the one practice area where workload decreased significantly in the last 12 months was personal injury.
  • Over half of all firms are expecting volume growth in the next 12 months but there are clear differences between practice areas. Large increases are expected in wills and probate and family law. Some way behind is conveyancing and the difficulties in the personal injury sector are expected to continue.
  • IRN Research expects the legal services market to grow by 4.4% in 2021 and then at a higher rate in 2022.
  • Many of the moves to home working and virtual consultations with clients, which spread across the market as a result of the pandemic, are expected to stay in place in the longer term: four out of 10 of practitioners interviewed by IRN Research are expecting to see some of their physical office space reduced or closed in 2021 and 2022.
  • The UK Legal Services Market Report 2021 is available directly from IRN Research, priced at £400.

Through the year, there are other Market Reports on: clinical negligence; conveyancing; family law; medico-legal & insurance; personal injury; wills, probate & trusts.
All 7 Market Reports are available for an annual subscription.

Further content details for this report at www.irn-research.com/market-research-reports

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