Legal sector revenues held up far better than the economy as a whole during the first full month of lockdown, official statistics have revealed. But commentators warned that this is no reason for complacency and that the full impact of the pandemic has yet to be felt.
According to Office for National Statistics data, the UK’s legal sector generated revenues of £3.3bn in April, 4.7% down on the previous month and 5.5% down on April 2019. The wider economy experienced unprecedented falls of over 20%.
However industry observers pointed out that revenues booked in April - one of the two most prosperous months of the year for the sector - were largely from matters taken on before lockdown. Louis Young, managing director at litigation funder Augusta said: ’The full impact of lockdown is yet to be felt. Many firms have been expecting substantial revenue falls and rightly taking action to reduce costs and shore up their finances in preparation for harder times in coming months.’
Law Society president Simon Davis said the figures indicated healthy revenues despite the lockdown. 'However there is a strong note of caution. These figures reflect deals and cases in progress which started significantly before lockdown. What happens next is quite uncertain, depending on what the future pipeline of work will look like.'
He noted that the effect of lockdown varied widely across the sector. 'For some firms the impact of the virus has been more immediate, with the effect being felt in residential property transactions, reduction in court hearings, no jury trials at all until recently, and social distancing causing difficulty in the execution of wills.'
He noted that the fate of the high-street firm is intrinsically bound to that of other small businesses. 'Whether in relation to problems with housing, employment or wills – or advising local businesses – small firms are often at the heart of their communities. It is vital they survive the crisis to play a strong role in getting the economy back on its feet.'