Law Society Predict Huge Sector Changes By 2027
The Law Society are urging the legal sector to embrace modernity by adapting to a more ‘deregulated environment, stronger commercial pressures and increasing adoption of technology.’
Employment in the legal sector is predicted to fall 13% by 2027, according to the Law Society’s Strategic Workforce Planning reports.
Despite the number of legal professionals in England and Wales increasing from 61,329 in 1993 to 150,000 in 2017, the sector is set to retract slightly as Brexit and alternative working structures change the sector as we know it.
Regulatory change and law firm compliance will reshape the structure of many firms according to the report.
Currently, 47% of the workforce is made up of legal professionals and 11% comprised of legal associate professionals such as compliance professionals. However, by 2027, these figures are set to rise to 57% and 15% respectively.
In part, this increase will be driven by a fall in the number of legal secretaries with numbers declining by as much as two thirds.
Between 2017 and 2027, the Law Society report indicate that 100,000 employees during this time, 70% of which should be legal service professionals.
Whilst 7,000 per year are needed, the sector is struggling to fill 6,400 at present. 3,100 graduates per year are entering the profession whilst 3,300 qualified professionals are returning to the sector.
Given the extent of the shortfall, the sector will become increasingly reliant on embracing legal tech solutions to ensure efficiency and quality of service is maintained.
Simon Davies, Law Society President, commented:
“Our analysis anticipates the shape of the future legal workforce, identifying trends and skills gaps based on a range of alternative scenarios, from technology adoption and Brexit to competition.
“Developments identified here will help define the roles and skills required for solicitor firms to perform successfully, while the Law Society will continue to refer to these findings to plan and develop relevant support for our members.
“The most prevalent skills gaps (although these gaps are decreasing) are likely to be around problem solving, client handling, and planning and organization.
“Worryingly, this report also suggests the numbers of recruits exhibiting skills gaps in literacy and numeracy will be higher.
“For anyone aiming for a career in the law, it is worth noting that a common theme from employers was that firms were paying more attention in recruitment to people skills, such as communication and team working, whereas in the past they had only looked at technical legal skills. Commercial awareness and management skills were also seen as important.
“A core issue our research over many years has repeatedly alerted us to is a lag in diversity at the top of the profession.
“We believe one of the tools to address this is greater clarity and transparency about career pathways, including the skills and experience required to reach leadership positions.”
How do you envision the sector changing in the future?