According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, almost 100 applications have been made under the Legal Services Act for law firms and companies to be registered as alternative business structures offering legal services. The Act’s stated intention was to make legal services more accessible to the public and allow bodies other than registered law firms to sell legal services. It also paved the way for legal firms to attract external investment, allowing them access to capital for new markets.
The law was nicknamed the ‘Tesco Law’ in reference to the likelihood of supermarkets selling legal services. The number of applications is as much as five times the expected volume, which could indicate a fundamental shift in the market for law services and the legal jobs market. Currently, the UK market for legal services is worth £23 billion a year but if, as intended, the legislation leads to more members of the public taking up legal services, the sector could experience substantial growth and a new generation of legal jobs could soon be appearing in the market.
Major supermarkets and banks are among those currently considering a foray into legal services and with their financial resources and direct access to customers, they could quickly become major players. This should lead to a substantial increase in legal jobs as firms look to take on qualified staff to provide the legal expertise to customers. Sudden growth of this kind also has the potential to drive up salaries within the sector.