The number of UK lawyers working for ‘platform’ law firms has increased 29% to 1,035 in 2018, up from 803 in 2017, shows new research by Hazlewoods, Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers who specialise in the legal profession.
The growth of platform law firms is part of growing trend for lawyers to work outside of the traditional law firm structure allowing them to take more control of how they work and to be more entrepreneurial. Platform law firms offer the option of working ‘flexi-time’, avoiding the long hours culture of the legal profession and of allowing the lawyer to keep a higher percentage of the fees they charge. Lawyers at these firms are self-employed, work remotely and use a back office and other shared services such as accounting, IT, marketing and compliance provided by a central hub. Some commentators describe it as part of the gig economy. The self-employed business model enables lawyers to choose when they work and how much attention they pay to marketing versus fee-earning. Having lawyers working remotely means platform law firms often have fewer overhead costs on rent and on-site IT staff for example.
These law firms argue the savings mean they can offer clients high-quality services at lower rates than many of their competitors. Remote working also gives platform law firms the opportunity to expand into underserved niche markets, including many geographical regions without a large presence of traditional law firms. Hazlewoods adds that investors are increasingly attracted to the growth opportunities of cost the platform law firm model. In November 2017, Keystone law became the first platform firm to list on the London Stock Exchange. Jon Cartwright, partner at Hazlewoods, says ‘the continued growth of platform law firms reflects the enthusiasm in the legal sector to adapt to new ways of working.’ He adds, ‘it is also part of broader trend amongst lawyers to be more entrepreneurial, to strike out on their own. Some because they want to do things their way, some because they feel big law firms involve too much politics and others because they feel they are getting enough out of the fees they earn.’