The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its report into the provision of legal services by barristers. The report contains the results of an online survey conducted in September and October 2016 with barristers about the future delivery of legal services.
The survey found that while there are examples of “new and innovative” business models in the market, the prevailing business model for barristers is a traditional chambers.
The attributes of newer business models include:
- they are more likely to offer fixed fees and/or payment plans;
- they have a more agile and flexible governance structure; and
- they make greater use of technology to support service delivery.
However, these attributes are not unique to new or innovative organisations and could be (and indeed are being) adopted by traditional chambers.
The survey found that barristers consider that the main drivers for changing delivery model include:
- unmet client need for legal services;
- a need to respond to competition in the market; and
- changing client expectations (for example, greater demand for legal professionals to be more accessible and the offer of a fixed fee payment structure).
However, the barristers who responded to the survey do not necessarily feel the need for a new approach to the delivery of legal services. This was illustrated by these key findings:
- only 5% plan to change their fee structure;
- 8% plan to change the way they receive instructions; and
- 7% plan to change their governance structure.
BSB Director General Vanessa Davies said: “Improving access to justice, promoting the interests of consumers and promoting competition in the provision of legal services are key objectives of the BSB. This research tells us that some innovation is happening in traditional chambers as well as through new business models. This survey took place before the recent report by the Competition and Markets Authority which called for greater transparency in pricing and about which we will be consulting shortly. But I note, for example, that around half of chambers who responded and around two thirds of those from non-chambers said that they already include details of their fee options and structures in their marketing materials. The chambers model seems likely to continue to serve consumers well in the future but our role as the regulator is also to enable barristers who do want to innovate to do so, through flexible regulatory arrangements. Our recent announcement that we are now able to license Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) is an example of this.”