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Clients to provide competitive pressures, expert states

Posted by: Laurence Simons 16/09/13

Lawyers are often seen as creatures with mystical powers that can influence the outcome of anything.

TV dramas have not helped this particular perception issue, as shows such as Ally McBeal portrayed them as a ragtag bunch of misfits - the socially awkward one, the whimsical one, the power hungry one, you get the picture.

However, a truly great law firm boils down to one thing - success. Winning cases and keeping clients happy is the best way to build up a good reputation.

Tony Angel, global co-chairman of the world’s largest law firm DLA Piper, said he expects the biggest competitive pressures in the future to come from clients. In a wide-ranging interview with the Lawyer, he said in-house counsel will increasingly turn to alternative providers in search of a cost-effective deal.

"Meeting those requirements is going to be a really tough competitive pressure for law firms. Differentiation is a key challenge," he added.

Mr Angel expects a range of pricing models to be introduced in the future, although he does not think billable hours will be a thing of the past. Rather, it is about matching firms with the pricing models that suit them and maintaining a professional relationship.

"Clients are not happy to pay high fees for relatively inexperienced lawyers," he said. "So there's a real challenge in how you train up your young people and make them effective really quickly."

This flags up another issue - training. The expert feels not enough is being done to prepare junior lawyers for the working world and so firms should be looking to improve their current support systems.

In terms of boosting the skills of junior lawyers, Mr Angel pointed to the usefulness of technology - including document management systems - in helping them to gain an advantage over their competition.