Lawyers have had it “very easy for a long time” – but the “perfect storm” facing the sector provides enormous opportunities, according to a leading legal figure in the West Midlands.
Simon Astill, managing partner at Harvey Ingram, said casualties, including long-established small law firms, were inevitable with the onset of the new Legal Services Act.
But he forecast a bright future for firms with critical mass, including Harvey Ingram, which is undertaking cost and job-cutting plans to prepare for “aggressive growth” whilst remaining on target for a record £19.5 million turnover.
Mr Astill said turnover was up from £14.2 million last year, and the firm was preparing for more growth by considering acquiring other firms, launching new products and headhunting leading lawyers.
But four partners have been asked to leave and the firm is rationalising its back office function as part of a “root and branch” review of costs and services.
Harvey Ingram, with five offices across the Midlands and Home Counties, employs almost 400 people, with around 75 in the Newhall Street office in Birmingham.
“It is a hugely changing environment; there will be further consolidation in the future.
“You have what people call a perfect storm, including deregulation with the Legal Services Act and the economy slipping off the cliff.
“I think that lawyers have had it very easy for a very long time, but I still think that lawyers are the best people to deliver legal services.
“I was elected as managing partner with a mandate to expand the firm. To achieve that we have implemented an aggressive growth plan which began earlier this year when we merged with Home Counties firm Borneos.
“We then set about increasing our income and are pleased to have added over £5 million turnover in just one year.
“The next step of this expansion sees us realigning our services to meet the shifting patterns of the work we are winning. We must free up funds to invest in the areas in demand.
“Family law and specialist property work are growing, so we are bolstering our teams in those areas. Other areas require smaller teams, so we are reducing the numbers of people working there.
“Now it is time to hone our investment strategy to ensure it is targeting precisely the areas that are crucial to our continuing growth.
"At four of the firm’s five offices one partner has been asked to leave and other partners are being assigned to non-partnership roles, with three becoming legal directors and two becoming consultants. One partner is retiring.”