Competition forces firms to slash fees

MAJOR law firms have slashed fees by as much as 20 per cent as competition with local and American rivals intensifies, according to a survey.

A study released on Friday shows senior lawyers in private practice are, on average, 13.6 per cent cheaper than five years ago.

The study was compiled by public relations consultant Media Brief. It surveyed 200 heads of corporate legal departments in England and Wales, asking for estimates of the average hourly cost of their outside legal advisers.

The results show that a senior lawyer working in private practice charges an average of £180 an hour, 13.6 per cent less than in 1990, when the average was £208.30 an hour.

A junior lawyer charges £130, a fall of 7.8 per cent on 1990 when the cost was £141.

Media Brief researcher Arabella O'Connor says the fall in costs is a result of post-recession competition, both local and trans-Atlantic.

“Solicitors are waking up to the fact that they have to run their partnerships like a proper business,” she says.

“They are going down the same road that accountants took about eight years ago, becoming more aware of their competition, marketing responsibilities and so on.”

However, the cost of in-house lawyers has increased. The cost of the average senior commercial lawyer rose from £63.36 an hour in 1990 to £66.06.