Latest official statistics appear to confound gloomy predictions made for the legal services sector at the start of the pandemic. The monthly business survey compiled by the Office for National Statistics shows that December 2020 was the highest turnover month in the history of the UK legal profession, with £3.53bn billed. In 2020 as a whole, the sector billed £36.7bn, virtually unchanged from 2019.

2020 graph

Official stats show 'tremendous performance' at end of last year

Source: iStock

The figures, analysed by London firm Kingsley Napley, show that in January this year legal sector revenues were 4.7% down on the same period last year, to £2.95bn. However this was a markedly better performance than that of the services sector as a whole, which shrank by 15.7%.  

Julie Norris, regulatory partner at Kingsley Napley, said: 'The early weeks of 2021 have been difficult for the legal industry, after a tremendous performance at the end of 2020. Many firms are likely now looking forward to a post-lockdown future and will be seeking to ramp up growth in the coming months. In these unprecedented times, law firm leaders need to carefully consider growth plans in the context of both their impact on staff wellbeing and increased scrutiny from regulators.'

Earlier this week the 11th edition of IRN Research’s UK Legal Services Market Report showed that revenues in the first three quarters of 2020 were down by 1.5% on the previous year, mainly due to the first pandemic lockdown. The ground was partly made up in the final quarter.