As one of the pioneers of the consultancy law model, we have seen a rapid rise in lawyers emancipating themselves from the traditional model and moving to consultancy solicitor, fee-sharing roles. This migration was exacerbated by lockdown and, based on current growth rates, up to a third of lawyers could make the transition to working on a consultancy basis within the next three years. With more and more hardworking individuals attracted to the prospect of freedom to grow their client base, is the landscape for law firms changing for good and how do you measure the success of New Law?
Whilst numbers will always dominate when it comes to gaining insight into the profession and its productivity, the nature of the data that we use: annual turnover, fee percentage and number of lawyers, is not always representative of what is best, from the perspective of either the client or the lawyer. When it comes to discerning the “best” law firm to work for or engage, size most definitely is not everything. In fact, the push to demonstrate prowess in terms of size can lead to a compromise on quality; we at Excello, for example, recruit solely on the quality of the lawyer, not to build scale, and measure our success on the happiness of our teams.
Regardless of the data used to evaluate the shift towards the consultant solicitor fee-sharing model, the proof of its success can be seen in the rise in lawyers looking to make the move. Some will attribute this upturn of the fee-share model to the pandemic and resulting Great Resignation, however this alternative way of operating has been becoming increasingly popular over the last fifteen years. In those early days, many saw the clear benefits of such a model, while others dismissed the importance of agility and work-life balance out of hand. Time, however, has proven that the very agility for which the model was dismissed has enabled it to flourish, with lockdown accelerating both the uptake and the significance of a versatile remote working model.
Freedom to work when, and for whom they want, and to reap the rewards of their hard work is now no longer an out of reach aspiration for ambitious, hardworking lawyers; it is a possibility. Law is traditionally a stressful career, with often astronomically high stakes and minimal margin for error. The traditional view is, therefore, that people don’t become lawyers to be happy or stress-free; long hours, high stress and limited power over client base and workload are simply par for the course. The fee-share model empowers those committed to their careers to take the energy traditionally required to survive in the high-stress traditional law-firm environment and focus it on nurturing clients to achieve greater financial rewards as well as improved wellbeing.
It’s not just ambitious, full-time individuals who stand to gain in terms of professional development, financial rewards and wellbeing; small existing firms or those wishing to develop their own firm can benefit from the back office support services, regulatory structure and administrative support of a consultancy firm while retaining (and building) their own client base and branding. Contrary to the opinion that a fee-sharing model could herald the demise of the high street law firm, by providing relief from often prohibitively expensive and time-consuming tasks, the model could, in fact, be its saviour.
For the past decade and a half, the fee-share model has been the preserve of ambitious, forward-thinking professionals who are brave enough to make the jump from the security of employment to the potential uncertainty of self-employment. However, for the next generation of talent, empowerment and fairer remuneration are not optional extras reserved for the brave few; they are non-negotiable essentials.
The last fifteen years have shown that lawyers can achieve success and results equal to, or better than, those gained by the traditional model, without enforced target pressures, management hierarchies and long hours. This means that, in order to attract and retain talent, existing traditional law firms will need to re-evaluate what they are offering their team members and justify the extreme pressures demanded of them, because “that is what we have always done and that is just how the industry works” is no longer a valid justification for increasingly outdated operating methods.
In order to really assess whether a fee-share model or traditional law firm is right for an individual, both as a client and as a lawyer, it is necessary to understand what good looks like. For some, success is in the numbers and peripheral, qualitative information is not a concern. For those who measure success by low staff turnover, better work life balance, increased client retention and quality of service, the fee-sharing model, which tends to incentivise quality over quantity, may provide the perfect fit.
If you are considering consultancy solicitor, fee-sharing roles and think that Excello may be the environment that allows you or your firm to thrive, download our brochure.
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