Last month's editorial struck a deliberately sombre tone regarding the year ahead, coming as it did right at the time of the Paris shootings. Let us be a bit more upbeat this month, with two lead features now under our belt on how solicitors view the prospects for the profession in 2020 and beyond.
Having now surveyed the spread of practice from the sole practitioner to the multinational, it would be fair comment to suggest that those who take a positive attitude in identifying their future market and how to win business in it, and keep their business practices under review so they are run as efficiently as possible, stand a good chance of surviving and thriving, however the competitive picture develops.
Whether you believe that clients will still value face-to-face contact, or that online service will become the norm, there does appear to be a general recognition and belief that what clients will value above all else is advice, as opposed to information and options, and that such bespoke, personalised service, to whatever type of client it is offered, will remain something that the profession is better qualified to deliver than most other providers in the market.
We should not overlook, however, the particular problems faced by criminal defence lawyers and those working in the social welfare sector, in its broad sense. Vulnerable to government policy shifts and public spending cuts, while at the same time facing (at least on the civil side) an increase in demand due to those same factors, they deserve the full and vocal support of the entire profession in standing up for the people they are attempting to help. As one of our other respondents put it, to fail those in our society who are most in need of legal provision would be a moral scandal, “and if we as a profession do not do something about it, the moral scandal will become ours”.
Another reason to be more cheerful is the fact that new traineeships were up by 11% last year, to a figure not far short of the number of students embarking on the Diploma. Probably there are still quite a number of graduates out there whose hopes of finding a training place have not yet been realised. But prospects certainly look brighter at present than for some years, and they should be encouraged to keep trying and not give up hope.