‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language.’ So goes the axiom attributed (apparently erroneously) to George Bernard Shaw. The same is true of the business of law: the UK and US are two legal markets separated by a common need for innovation in cost management. Both aspire to innovation but have (so far) achieved quite different outcomes.
At the risk of oversimplifying, the essence of the disparity resides in the extent to which in-house and private practice lawyers in the UK and the US are utilising available tools to manage legal costs. Given the relative sizes of the two markets, it’s no surprise that the US is for now in the lead, and that it has embraced innovation in cost management in ways that are both more far-reaching and more sophisticated.
The risk for lawyers in the UK – particularly at a time when Brexit uncertainties are creating ever more pressure to keep costs in check – is that the legal savings and cost management needed will not be achieved by old models. Law firms simply can’t offer sufficient discounts on fees to meet client budgets. A new paradigm is needed–and UK lawyers would do well to embrace the best of what has been proven to work in the US.