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Legal and Political Services

Future Trends

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Legal Sector

Like many parts of the economy, the legal sector has faced challenges in the recent recession and although recovering the sector is also on the verge of significant change over the next 20+ years.

There have been numerous changes to legislation that have already and will continue to affect the sector including:

The Legal Services Act – for example, has allowed legal services to be offered by non-legal entities such as banks, supermarkets, trade unions and property management companies. This movement may see the expansion of the number of opportunites for less highly paid paralegals who will be able to deal with less complex legal work and make the legal commodity the company is selling more affordable to the consumer. As a recent survey illustrated that two thirds of consumers are open to the idea of securing legal services from high street names rather than solicitors, this trend could develop more over time.

The November 2010 Legal Aid Green paper – for example, is proposing that legal aid funding for a wide range of disputes, including some divorce cases, employment, immigration, personal injury, benefits and clinical negligence is to be axed. This, if it comes into law, is predicted to impact in particular on family lawyers, and organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, who employ lawyers to help clients with disputes such as benefits and immigration, and who may not have funding in the future for this type of litigation.

In addition there has been increasing competition and challenges from:

Large corporations and firms, facing their own difficulties, have needed to downsize their legal bills and have put pressure on law firms to make changes to billing arrangements and move to more fixed fee arrangements rather than hourly billing. There has also been some outsourcing of simple legal work, back office and legal research to cheaper economies such as India.

Globalisation – although the UK has, like the US, an advantage in that UK or US law is often the law of choice for many global transactions, commercial legal work is increasingly global and UK commercial lawyers may need to work more internationally in future to compete.

The growth of the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Russian economies, which are set to outstrip Western world economies.  So for example by 2050 the Chinese economy is predicted to be about 15 times the size of the UK economy.

The rise of the solicitor advocate, and the relaxation of rules about barristers and solicitors working together to provide a range of services. Solicitor advocates with their ability to do High Court work have offered some competition to barristers, and equally in the future more barristers may offer more of the work traditionally done by solicitors.  This may lead to changes to, and more flexibility in, the education and training system for would-be lawyers in the future.

Legal services generally in the UK, and in particular paralegal jobs, are predicted to continue to grow as they react to these changes and take advantage of new markets. They may well however, look different to the current legal system.

Political Sector

At the time of writing (November 2010) The Political Reform Bill (2010) is currently in the House of Lords. If enacted, it proposes to:

  • Cut MP total numbers from 650 to 600 by 2015 by reducing the number of constituencies to 600 each equal to about 75,000 voters.
  • Put in place a public referendum about alternative voting methods – so that can voters can have a say about proportional representation, a different method of voting than currently operated in the UK.

The current coalition government is aiming to shrink the size of the state to reduce national debt and this will probably have an effect on politicians at all levels, as well as government employees, as the state is less involved in regulating what happens locally and nationally.

The recent expenses scandal has put the public spotlight on MPs pay and expenses.  This may mean that wages do not increase as much in the future.  This together with challenges and changes to the way in which politicians and political party’s gain sponsorship from large firms and trade unions, for example,  may impact on the cost to any individual who puts him/herself up for election.

Already a small and competitive job sector, the political sector may have fewer opportunities in the future.