Reviewing the media this morning I noticed an increasing number of announcements about the merger of legal firms within the Yorkshire region. No fewer than three mergers hit the headlines today with stories released from Ware & Kay and P J Lawrence, Switalskis Solicitors and Parker Bird Gardner and Petherbridge Bassra and Brimble & Co.
I’m sure that most people working within the legal sector will know that there are likely to be many more announcements before the market settles into a new shape – which will see fewer firms but larger overall practices offering their services.
Having worked within the sector I found the concept of ‘Tesco law’ very interesting, noting that due to a change in legislation any business could offer legal services, if they had the right people with the right qualifications to do so. This change was quickly termed Tesco law as it would mean that supermarkets could offer legal services if they felt it would be a lucrative market.
Needless to say a company like Tesco would also be likely to offer legal support at cut down prices, providing an appealing opportunity for consumers and businesses alike. This in turn would create a crisis situation for most legal teams who would have to review their offering and potentially change the way they work to maintain market share and customer loyalty.
Although it is not surprising to see that in order to counter the Tesco law effect local firms are coming together to create larger and presumably stronger practices, as a PR professional I hope that these organisations have a strategy in place to manage internal and external communications during the changes and beyond.
Legal firms are notorious for believing that marketing and communications are fluffy and a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to an essential tool for supporting business practice and enhancing reputation, which in turn generates sales.
It will be interesting to see which firms have considered their messaging and tone of voice following a merger and which have a strategy in place to effectively manage the change. It is certainly a period of immense change both for the practices which are coming together and the market as a whole.