LexisNexis release the latest Bellwether report, as buoyant growth meets rising costs in the SME legal environment

LONDON, UK, September 14, 2021 – LexisNexis release the latest Bellwether report, as buoyant growth meets rising costs in the SME legal environment.

Key highlights:
  • Despite national restrictions and market uncertainty, 31% of firms outperformed their revenue expectations.
  • Market confidence is higher than pre-pandemic levels – 93% of firms are confident in their firm’s future.
  • 66% of firms say their firm is growing, compared with 3-4 years ago.
  • Confidence is high, but 70% predict challenges ahead.
  • Unlike larger firms, firms plan to grow organically – rather than resort to high-risk M&A.
  • 66% of respondents say that the PII cost was the biggest threat to their business.
  • 65% of respondents say attracting and retaining good lawyers is a significant cost.
  • The average job satisfaction score is 8 out of 10, whilst equally the average stress level score is 7 out of 10.
  • The private sector is growing at its fastest rate since 2013.
  • The small firms weathered the pandemic well – 39% took out government-backed pandemic specific debt, but 45% didn’t.
  • Of the firms that made use of the furlough scheme, most aren’t planning on repaying the money back to the government despite strong revenue and profitability performance.
  • 77% of firms agree that Covid-19 has presented an opportunity to drive innovation and change in working practices.

The latest Bellwether report titled “Small law in the pandemic: The good, the bad and the new” was released today (14 September) by LexisNexis Legal & Professional.

The report highlights that 31% of firms have outperformed profit expectations since the pandemic. Perceptions of the future market are bullish, with 93% having confidence in their firm’s future – higher than all pre-pandemic scores.

Unlike the larger end of the market, smaller law firms predominantly grew organically, rather than higher risk M&A. Many firms reported that they had grown and diversified practice areas by acquiring staff that had been laid off by other firms quickly and easily.

However, whilst today’s market is rosy, lawyers recognise that the world has changed around them. 70% predicted that there will be tough challenges ahead.  Indeed, the cost of Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) premiums has risen dramatically, putting yet more pressure on the operational costs of running a law firm.  66% of respondents said that the PII cost was the biggest threat to their business. There is a growing expectation from insurers that firms have robust legal technology embedded to minimise their risk exposure. Unsurprisingly, only 5% felt that free legal information online was trustworthy.

Another clear challenge is the changing workplace and expectations from employees. The work location of the future is unclear. Whilst there is no clear consensus on the future of hybrid working, many expect that law firms will return to their traditional ways. The biggest reported challenge was the recruitment and retention of good talent. Interestingly, job satisfaction in the small legal market is excellent, with an average satisfaction score of 8 out of 10. Yet, conversely, the average score for stress was high at 7 out of 10.

Chris O’Connor, Director of Solutions, commented:

“It has been a tough slog for law firms through the pandemic, with many depending on government grants and furlough to survive. So, it is excellent to see the strong growth trajectory in the market. But, with stress and wellbeing continuing to be a challenge – it is clearly crucial for firms to identify the root cause and seek to invest in solutions that will help to mitigate it.”


Read the report here.


Kindly shared by LexisNexis

Main photo courtesy of Pixabay