2019 outlook part three

Posted on: 14 March 2019

In the final part to this three-part blog, we look at opportunities stemming from the market consolidation happening, as well as regulatory challenges and evolving technology.

Market consolidation

There’s been a significant amount of consolidation in the PI market recently, with mergers and acquisitions, as well as firms announcing voluntary wind downs, and dismantling PI departments. It could be that this is a perfectly natural market response with survival of the fittest. Somewhere between the consolidators and those divesting there are some brilliant, truly customer centric law firms emerging.

As a coping mechanism to the changing infrastructure of the legal market, its’ been expected that firms will also look to simplify processes, look at value added services and innovate in technology1. Nevertheless, it’s expected that the PI market will pick up again in 2021.

Technology and innovation

This brings both threat and opportunity. Law firms could use advanced technology and artificial intelligence to enhance the service they provide to customers2. They can access a solicitor remotely and simple legal advice can be provided by bots. Incredibly, eBay handles over 60 million disputes every year through its online dispute system3. In addition, the benefits of technology lets solicitors offer a better service – they’ll have more time to spend with their customers.

  • Other areas technology could benefit the industry:
  • Secure cloud data storage
  • Improved communication, via video, live chat and telephone
  • Online contract processing
  • e-billing
  • Online documentation portals
  • Online case management systems4.

However, the world may be getting smarter, but what about the associated risk that entails? Cyber security takes centre stage as small, medium and large businesses continue to struggle with the increasing risk of data breaches, cyber-attack and system failures.

Regulation

With solicitors’ overriding duty being to the rule of law and administration of justice5, this will always be a risk to solicitors. We’ve seen a steady increase in reports of solicitors misleading the courts6 and times when solicitors have been unclear about the risks of litigation with unnecessary costs incurred as a result. Both prioritising the customer over the other duties and failing in the customer’s interests are poor practice, so the sector must address the reasons for allegations of misconduct. After all, the UK rule of law is underpinned by public confidence in the system7.

GDPR is one of the regulatory buzz words of today. It’s been at the forefront of many businesses strategies for the last 18 months. If not adhered to, it can have substantial consequences (as we’ve seen on the news). Luckily, there’s a lot of quality information available so solicitors and insurers alike can stay compliant. It does remain be a key risk for this year however.

Challenges aside, it’s an exciting time to be innovating in the legal sector. Those that thrive will set the pace for the next generation of solicitors in the PI and clinical negligence market. What seems critical now, is maintaining an industry focused on enhancing the integrity of the legal sector.

 

1 IRN research paper (2018) UK personal injury market

2 Solicitors Regulation Authority (2018) Technology and legal services

3 Solicitors Regulation Authority (2018) Technology and legal services

4 Solicitors Regulation Authority (2018) Technology and legal services

5 Solicitors Regulation Authority (2018) Balancing duties in litigation

6 Solicitors Regulation Authority (2018) Balancing duties in litigation

7 Solicitors Regulation Authority (2018) Balancing duties in litigation

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Phil Ruse

Phil Ruse

Head of Legal Protection Sales and Distribution