UK firms must adapt to keep pace with US competition as costs pressures mount, warn PwC analysts

UK law firms must adapt to keep pace with increasing competition from their US counterparts, a survey of top firms by accountancy firm PwC has warned.

The survey cites rising staff costs and increasing client expectations as the main drivers of UK firms’ need to adapt, particularly as many US firms pay newly qualified fee earners far in excess of what most UK firms offer. Nonetheless, The Law Gazette reports that employee remuneration as a percentage of firms’ overall fee income has continued to grow, and rose from 36.7% to 38.5% last year. The report also notes the uncertainty faced by UK firms as a result of the electorate’s vote to leave the European Union, and called on firms to embrace the innovations offered by new technology as a key part of their drive to adapt.

David Snell, leader of PwC’s law firms advisory group, commented: “Technology will impact all areas, from client service delivery to business support and, importantly, staff recruitment and retention. At the moment, the focus seems to be on updating or replacing old systems. Firms need to be more agile in embracing emerging technologies such as AI which will ultimately help them achieve more effective staffing levels and react faster to changing client demands. Embracing technology, building an agile and diverse workforce, and determining the right global strategy will be the key differentiators for firms seeking to remain competitive and relevant in the rapidly changing landscape of the UK legal sector.” 

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