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Property Law Challenges: Staying Competitive and Diversion of Resources
May 24, 2024

While the UK property market has seen some slight improvements in recent weeks, industry experts remain cautious, noting that while there has been increased buyer demand and sales, it is still challenging for many, especially with ongoing high mortgage rates. A recent article published by Today’s Conveyancer, shows that cash buyers currently have the most significant advantage, comprising over 30% of current property sales, which has seen a significant jump from previous years. However, homeownership is increasingly unattainable for many standard buyers as the market is currently more in favour of those fortunate enough not to need a mortgage. The impact of a slowing market, combined with recruitment struggles seen across the legal sector and a consistent need to drive new business and remain competitive, still pose some of the biggest challenges for law firms to address, especially for small to mid-size practices and those whose work is predominantly reliant on one work source.

Improving Revenue Streams Through Diversion of Resources

Due to the nature of how solicitors and lawyers work, and the training they receive, many will have had some experience in other areas of law, although it may not be their specialism. Making the most of the resources that firms have already established in-house will provide much needed assistance to ensure the firm’s continuity, and to see it through any climate uncertainties and beyond. Furthermore, having staff that can work across other service areas supports other departments in times of recruitment struggles, meaning work does not need to be turned down, or service levels drop.

If firms have not already begun reallocating or merging resources, the time to do so is now. This may involve investing in existing staff by providing training and refresher courses for those who have not handled other areas of law for some time.  

Areas which, at present, are showing continued engagement include: 

  • Wills 
  • Probate  
  • Lasting Powers of Attorney  
  • Matrimonial 
  • Employment  
  • Insolvency 
  • Litigation 

Each of these areas are relevant and needed services at the present time, and many firms are reporting that new instructions continue to arise in these core areas. 

There are some key steps to consider: 

  • Identify Experience and Expertise – Establish with your fee earners what experience they have and, even if limited, whether they are prepared to support other areas of the firm that are receiving incoming work. These are the ideal candidates for cross training or refresher training so you can make full use of the resource you have.
  • Support Tasks – Not all tasks can be completed by a fee earner without the experience to do so, but preparation, taking instructions, drafting, and generally assisting will be applicable. It is important to highlight tasks that can be performed by those without full experience and not to push staff to undertake tasks that could expose the firm to risk. 
  • Update Training – Identify training gaps and deliver training to those who require a refresh or ground up training. As necessary, explain the basics of the service and the applicable law identifying common mistakes that could put the firm at risk of negligence. For those with previous experience, ensure that new practices and changes in the law are brought up to date. Training can be provided via video conferencing, with most firms now having this in place. The training of anyone being asked or volunteering to assist in areas of law that are not their main experience is essential and will form part of the firm’s approach to risk management. Where possible, issue training notes and handouts for future guidance and reference. 
  • Supervision of Staff – Review and check your supervision processes and adapt them as needed. It may seem unusual to ask a more senior member of the team to be supervised, but it is essential to do so and not expose the firm to risk. As always, the level of supervision required can be relaxed over time as the experience and confidence of those moving into new roles grows. Firms must also ensure they are following specific SRA transparency rules regarding displaying the experience of staff or departments involved in specific service areas and confirming who has overall supervision of those departments. Ensure those staff with experience are made available as needed, and where necessary, ‘buddy’ people up for the provision of ongoing guidance and support.  
  • File and Firmwide Audits – As matters are handled, a brief increase in the level or frequency of auditing may be necessary to ensure that the high standards of work and advice are being maintained. This precautionary measure is a sensible addition to a firm’s compliance and risk management policy and strategy.  
  • Quality of Service – Implementing effective training, supervision, and auditing will help to ensure that the advice provided is correct and the service provided meets the expected high standards. Clients are becoming more service and price savvy, with many looking at online service alternatives. It is therefore vital that firms remain competitive and review service delivery and service level offerings.

Although this article is about how to diversify work sources, it also seeks to address the issue for firms that have been over-reliant on property work. Reducing dependence on property has significant benefits which sit alongside retaining and maintaining a healthy property department.

The development of staff is always to be encouraged and using available resources to upskill your staff should be considered a welcome step and part of a strategy to strengthen the firm for the future.

For further related information, read our previous article:

Developing Your Law Firm – Diversification and reducing dependence on high-risk areas (property)

Detailed Firm Strategic Review

Our Detailed Firm Strategic Review is an intensive piece of consultancy where we spend the necessary time with a law firm to understand how the firm operates and, through doing so, assess where improvements or changes can be made to achieve improved efficiency, increased profitability and improved service.

Through this process, we will work with the firm and its owners to tackle core issues as necessary and help deliver solutions that work.

With any business, including law firms, there is a need for a plan and strategy to assist in driving the firm forward to achieve its goals and objectives. There can be a number of reasons why a firm may call in external expertise to assist them, and our Detailed Strategic Review Service is an in-depth review of a law firm to understand the firm and identify where change may be necessary to achieve specific or generic goals.

The Strategic Partner has a depth of experience across the full range of legal environments and has faced, with firms, a multitude of challenges and assisted firms in overcoming them. We will apply our experience and knowledge to your benefit.

Our consultants will spend time at your business to gain a detailed understanding from which they will work with the key people to share expertise and knowledge to improve and drive the firm forward in the most appropriate and effective way.

Get in Touch with The Strategic Partner

For more information about the work that The Strategic Partner undertakes for law firms to help develop, grow and sustain their firms you can call us on 020 3911 9710 or email us at info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk. 

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