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Tim Hamilton is senior partner at Garretts in Manchester.
For law firms in Manchester business is booming. We are all busier than ever, doing deals that are bigger than ever. Gone are the days when multimillion pound transactions would disappear to London, leaving us to pick up the smaller, less profitable deals.
Today the reputation of Manchester's professional advisers is such that only a tiny percentage of local activity is handled outside the region. And for every deal that escapes the regional advisory net, we pick up a deal from elsewhere - perhaps from London, or increasingly from another European capital.
But it is not the size or volume of deals that will shape the future of the legal sector, it is the changing nature of the business world that will dictate the survival of today's regional players. Globalisation and investment in new technology are both absolutely essential for all.
These demands are driven by the explosion of the dotcom business sector. This boom has meant that developing an e-strategy is not just the preoccupation of the new breed of entrepreneurs. Every market sector is waking up to new ways of doing business.
For professional advisers the warning bells are sounding loud and clear. Get up to speed with new technology and be quick about it. Many lawyers are already jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon - if you want to keep your staff it is essential to show them that you are up-to-date.
For new economy entrepreneurs, today's window of opportunity will only be open for a short time. The key to success is being there first and making the most noise about it. To do that they need to be able to move quickly and for this they need professional advisers who understand what they are doing and can talk in a language they understand.
This market in particular has an appetite for an integrated professional service approach with the ability to provide the full range of tax, legal and accounting services.
Purchasing attitudes are a lot less entrenched in the new economy where decision makers are often younger and have less regard for convention. While traditionalists still argue that there is no market for a "one-stop shop" for professional advice, today's young entrepreneurs have broken the mould and prefer it if their advisers have done likewise.
In an electronic era, traditional geographical boundaries are non-existent and these businesses need lawyers who can provide multi-jurisdictional advice quickly.
At the moment, the deals market is so buoyant that corporate lawyers may get away with doing deals in the same old way. Perhaps they are active in sectors where the impact of e-commerce has yet to make itself felt or perhaps old loyalties are keeping them in business.
But whatever their circumstances today, once the current flurry of activity diminishes, firms which have not kept pace with the changes the market demands will struggle to catch up.
I am certain that strategic alliances, further mergers and the development of niche practices which offer deep competencies in specialist areas will emerge in the next few years.
Those firms which cannot decide in which direction to travel may soon find they have nowhere to go.