The UK legal services market emerged from 2020 with its value unchanged on the previous year, an annual snapshot of the sector reveals today. However legal professionals are optimistic about the year ahead. 

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

Business and commercial affairs (including commercial property) accounted for 46% of total UK market revenue and most of the high-value work. The largest segment in the consumer law market is personal injury/accident/medical negligence work, followed by family law and employment law.

The number of law firms in the UK stands at just below 12,000. In England and Wales incorporated companies now account for half of all firms’ business models. So far, Covid-19 has not led to significant numbers of firm closures but 2021 is likely to see more as furlough ends and restructuring in some sectors gathers pace.

Over half of all firms are expecting volume growth in the next 12 months but there are clear differences between practice areas. Large increases are expected in wills and probate and family law. Some way behind is conveyancing and the difficulties in the personal injury sector are expected to continue.

Overal, IRN Research expects the legal services market to grow by 4.4% in 2021 and then at a higher rate in 2022.