News release

Research reveals increasing pressure on city law firms from clients

New research published today suggests that clients are increasingly trying to impose challenging terms of engagement on the city law firms.

The study, commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and undertaken by the University of Birmingham and Claire Legal Ltd, explored the lawyer-client relationships in larger firms.

The independent researchers interviewed senior corporate and finance lawyers from twenty of the largest corporate law firms in England and Wales.

Other findings from the research include:

  • Pressure on city law firms to deliver value for money for their clients in an increasingly competitive market;
  • Firms that do push back on proposed terms of engagement which they deem to be unacceptable still get instructions;
  • Firms are responding to the pressures in different way, some using Risk Committees, Opinion Committees and/or Pricing Committees;
  • The Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLP) role is often seen as the ‘holder’ of professional values for the whole firm - potentially eroding the essential concept of individual professionalism; and
  • Third party 'shadow clients' are seeking to influence the behaviour of some legal advisers and dictate which law firms act for other parties.

Crispin Passmore, our Executive Director for Policy, said: "In the wake of the Tomlinson report and concerns around financial institutions' influence over law firms, we wanted to test our understanding of city firms' lawyer-client relationships.

"We seem to be seeing real pressure on law firms from clients, which makes it all the more important that the professional principles of independence and ethical practices remain at the heart of solicitors' decision-making."

Read an executive summary and download the report.

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