While a firm’s reputation for quality and technical expertise still matter, clients are increasingly looking for law firms willing to invest in building long-term trusted relationships and a deep understanding of their business operations. At the same time, the ongoing disruptions in the legal market are resulting in renewed pricing and competitive pressures.

These are among the key findings of the State of the UK Legal Market 2021 report from the Thomson Reuters Institute, which examined how UK firms and corporates have coped with the impact of COVID-19 – including the switch to remote working environments, courthouse closures or restrictions, and adjusting to sudden shifts in client priorities – as well as the implementation of Brexit.

The report shows that firms and corporations are leveraging these disruptions as opportunities to re-evaluate how the evolving legal needs in the market can best be met. Demand for cross-border legal advice has increased since 2017, despite the economic uncertainty in the lead-up to Brexit, with 80% of UK corporates actively looking for international legal support. Last year, 42% of UK corporate legal spend was dedicated to international legal work – significantly higher than the global average of 35%. Nearly twice as many UK corporates (38%) are planning to increase their international legal spend compared with those planning decreases (21%).

As clients look beyond short-term transactional goals, they are increasingly turning to trusted, long-term relationships for their legal counsel. The report found that nearly half of corporates (47%) believe the main way firms can bring more value is to commit to a longer-term partnership.

Corporates remain under budgetary pressures and are looking for firms with innovative, technology-driven legal service delivery models that can provide greater flexibility and value. Firms are increasingly adopting such models in response to both competition from alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) as well as a desire by lawyers to continue aspects of flexible working arrangements. An overwhelming 86% of lawyers surveyed want to retain options such as remote working and flexible work days, and many would consider leaving their firm otherwise.

These changing dynamics are proving to be a catalyst for greater investment in technology and knowledge-sharing platforms by firms, with 74% of senior UK partners stating their firms should be investing more in technology.

For more insights, watch this video discussion with Mike Abbott and David Johnson, both part of the Market Insights and Thought Leadership team for Thomson Reuters.

Download the full State of the UK Legal Market 2021 report at http://bit.ly/UKSOLM2021.

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