How can specialist law firms grow in Ireland and the UK?

31-Oct-2017 07:00:00 / by Richard Greene
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There’s a growing trend of more specialist law firms being favoured within the marketplace, leading to a surge in ‘boutique’ law firms being established in recent years. However, the trend has been more prominent in the UK than in Ireland, where one in five solicitors still work in top-tiered firms. As Irish clients become more discerning around price and expect more flexible delivery of legal services, will the legal sector continue to specialise?

UK Trends

There’s been an increase in specialist law firms over the last five years in the UK. This developed in response to the demand for more flexible and cost-effective solutions, and the liberalisation of the market since the introduction of the Legal Services Act in 2011, which allows other service providers to apply for licences to provide legal services.

Some of these specialist law firms have been set up by former partners of magic circle law firms who have relied on their reputation in their given field. These specialist law firms can provide the same advisory services that ‘big law’ firms can, but at a fraction of the price.

The rise of specialist law firms in the UK has been most notable in the litigation space. There has also been a rise in intellectual property boutique firms, which also have large litigation needs given the litigious nature of the assignments they often undertake.

However, one of the most expensive and time-consuming parts of the litigation process is discovery. Complying with a discovery order can consume vast amounts of time and precious financial resource, as it often involves a review of extensive amounts of documentation. All this works in the favour of big firms, which often have large teams of young lawyers to manage their document review obligations. Traditionally, smaller firms just couldn’t compete and were forced to yield to larger firms.

How can specialist law firms grow in Ireland and the UK?

Irish Trends

There are many law firms in Ireland which have highly regarded partners working with them. While they might not necessarily market themselves as specialist law firms, they may count some of Ireland’s largest companies within their client portfolio.

Occasionally, these firms might find themselves under-resourced to service their clients, for example when their client becomes embroiled in a large litigation, or another project of a similar scale. This might make them more likely to settle cases rather than go down the litigation route, as they lack the resources to scale to the demands of large scale litigation.

High front end litigation costs represent a major consideration for small firms when deciding whether to take on a case, or to tender for large projects. Due to their size and vast resources, large law firms are better prepared to cope with the costs of litigation, but there are only a handful of firms of this size in Ireland.

Despite the high number of small specialist law firms in Ireland, the top tiered firms continue to dominate state as well as international work. What if there was a way to show international companies that these smaller firms can scale to meet the demands of large cases? 

The solution for specialist law firms

By aligning with alternative legal service providers like Johnson Hana International (JHI), specialist law firms can level the playing field. Equipped with highly skilled legal and technology professionals, technology solutions that include a suite of eDiscovery platforms and outstanding legal talent, JHI can complete a firm’s discovery obligations in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner. 

We offer law firms of all sizes the opportunity to outsource a multitude of review and compliance tasks. Document review and eDiscovery solutions are just two areas in which JHI excels.

Specialist law firms no longer need to turn away cases for fear of lacking the resources to comply with discovery orders. In a market where margins are tight, JHI can help law firms significantly reduce costs, increase capacity and re-allocate time on more value-generating projects.

As a result, we effectively support business growth and performance. Specialist law firms can focus on the more advisory elements of legal services, and compete against ‘big law’ firms by tendering for large scale projects in tandem with JHI.

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Topics: outsourcing legal services, specialist law firms

Written by Richard Greene