LAW firms are seeing a sharp increase in commercial work in contrast to legally aided or private client work.
Nearly half the firms surveyed in accountants Grant Thornton's 1995 Solicitors' Inter Firm Comparison found that 1995 was more buoyant than previous years.
Over a quarter of firms (28 per cent) saw a decline in legal aid work this year compared to 18 per cent last year and nine per cent in 1993.
On the private client front, 18 per cent of firms experienced a decline in business this year compared to 12 per cent last year and 31 per cent in 1993.
Andrew Otterburn, a senior consultant with Grant Thornton's legal consultancy The David Andrews Partnership, said he was "surprised" at such a strong rating on commercial work."It reflects an uplift in commercial work but there is more competition for work."
He added: "In the past three years, firms have consistently expected commercial work to increase but it didn't meet their expectations."
Grant Thornton head of legal consulting David Andrews said: "As overheads continue to rise and fee levels come under increasing pressure, only the unwise will fail to take every available opportunity to establish and carefully monitor performance benchmarks on every occasion."
The findings are the interim results of a survey based on the views of 210 firms from around the UK.
Otterburn said firms were bullish about the prospects for commercial work next year with 55 per cent expecting an improvement.
The full survey will be published in December and will specify benchmarks of financial performance across a range of indicators and in respect of different sizes of practice.