Competition law to grow fastest among practice areas

Advice: Demand on the up 

Demand for competition law will grow fastest this year, while the markets for private client and criminal law shrink slightly, research has predicted.

With growth in the legal sector as a whole expected to be 6% in 2023, property and immigration are on course to be two of the other strongest sectors while corporate law stagnates.

“Regardless of the exact drivers”, demand for competition law is “consistently growing”, according to LexisNexis Legal & Professional’s latest Gross Legal Product Index.

“And going forward, these numbers are predicted to stay high and eventually reach greater heights than seen in previous years.”

Researchers predicted that a growth rate of 17% in 2022 would almost double to 32% in 2023.

Having plunged by 12% in the pandemic year of 2020, researchers said demand for commercial and residential property work bounced back by 9% in 2021, dipped by 1% in 2022 and was predicted to grow by 7% this year.

The market for immigration work was much more erratic, falling by 30% in 2020, growing dramatically by 64% in 2021, and then by a predicted 8% in both 2022 and 2023.

Demand for corporate law boomed in 2021, more than doubling in size by 120% before shrinking by almost a quarter (22%) last year.

The index said demand for the practice area would “increase organically in the years ahead, reaching the same level of stability seen in pre-pandemic times”, although this year’s growth would be minimal at 1%.

The commercial law market was stronger, with “steady growth” predicted from 2022 to 2024, “returning to a higher point than seen in previous years” after growing by 4% this year.

Researchers said the private client market was as sluggish as corporate law and predicted growth this year of only 1%.

It shrank by 16% during the pandemic, rebounded by an equal amount the following year before shrinking by 3% in 2022.

Demand for criminal law services was “steadily decreasing over the years”, falling sharply in the pandemic, before recovering slightly. However, it was estimated to have fallen by 2% last year and “expected to dip again in 2023 as a whole”.

Meanwhile, demand for both family and employment law was expected grow modestly this year.

The family law market has shown consistent growth over the last few years, up by 3% in 2021, 2% in 2022 and an expected 4% in 2023, which researchers attributed to an increase in financial remedy cases and private disputes involving children.

Demand for employment law, which grew by 6% in 2022, is expected to grow by a more modest 3%.

Dylan Brown, editor of the report, commented: “Law firms have proven their resilience to achieve growth during economically challenging times once again. Unlike their professional services peers, the legal sector has been relatively slow when it comes to technology adoption and innovation, yet law firms excel when it comes to driving a profit.

“Many law firms increased their billable hour targets for lawyers last year, and a growing number are offering alternative fee arrangements to appeal to cost-conscious clients.

“While business is by no means booming, law firms will likely continue to experience similar growth levels seen before the pandemic hit.”

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