We’re pretty much mid-way through 2023, so it’s a good time to take a look at what’s happening in the legal sector in the South West with a round-up of a few of the trends we’ve noted so far this year.

These include:

  • A thriving legal market, despite the economic outlook at the beginning of 2023
  • Firms focusing on what they offer prospective and existing employees in a competitive market
  • Changes to the legal sector in the South West
  • Law firms adapting to meet clients’ needs

A thriving legal market
With the economic uncertainty at the beginning of 2023, many were predicting a bumpy year ahead for law firms. But the legal sector has shown a good degree of resilience over the last few months, remaining buoyant despite the forecasts.

In fact, the Thomson Reuters ‘State of the Legal Market’ report released in May indicated that legal spending will actually grow over the coming year, with 35% of legal service buyers in the UK anticipating an increase in their overall legal spend.

We’ve certainly found the legal recruitment market has been as busy as ever. Law firms in the South West are seeking to expand their teams and certain practice areas are particularly active: the property market is still going strong, private client is always a solid area, and litigation keeps on growing.

Firms focusing on their offering in a competitive market
Legal recruitment has been very much candidate-driven over the last couple of years, meaning firms have had to work hard to attract the best talent. This has been a positive step for both prospective and existing employees.

Hybrid working is now the norm, which is in line with the government’s plans to prioritise flexible working. A recent consultation highlighted how this should incorporate “job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours” and we can expect working patterns to continue to evolve.

Firms have also been implementing other measures to stay competitive. Alongside higher salaries, we’ve seen an increase in benefits and holidays as well as wider initiatives, such as an emphasis on charitable work.

Changes to the legal sector in the South West
There’s been a shift away from smaller firms in the South West. There are various reasons behind this, including the accelerated pace of change driven by hybrid working and online communication, older partners retiring, and the need to keep up with new legislation. The legal sector in the region is changing face, with a number of smaller firms either being taken over or closing completely.

Law firms adapting to meet clients’ needs
The Thomson Reuters ‘State of the Legal Sector’ report highlights how clients are prioritising value from their advisors more than ever, with the historical reputation of a firm no longer enough to keep it ahead of the competition.

Clients are looking at the quality of the whole relationship with their legal advisors, wanting business partners who can provide both specialist knowledge and commercially-savvy advice. As the report states: “It will be crucial for legal service providers in the UK market to understand clearly what clients want and expect and then adapt their services accordingly.”

What will the rest of 2023 bring?
Of course, the year is not over yet and it will be interesting to see how these trends develop in the coming months. But it’s clear the legal sector’s ability to adapt and innovate is becoming all the more important to meet economic challenges and stay ahead in a changing market.

Talk to us to find out the latest on the legal landscape in the South West, including salary information.