In the wake of the banking crisis, some commentators claimed the legal industry was set for a bloodbath that would sweep away 10,000 solicitors’ jobs from a flabby trade. As so often, the profession defied the critics, handling its post-Lehman reboot with assurance. Now, after posting on the face of it impressive numbers for 2016/17 in the shadow of Brexit and two major electoral upsets, there is talk of the resilience of the industry. The Legal Business 100 (LB100) has, after all, grown from £12.25bn to £22.06bn over the last decade and this year the group at long last surpassed its record PEP of £703,000 set way back in 2008.
And yet scratch the surface and there is much cause for unease. A good chunk of the long-term growth of the UK’s largest firms is due to consolidation, while the 2016/17 results have been hugely flattered by currency movements. Taken as one year, the numbers are respectable, but the long-term view is ominous, particularly for the City’s traditional leaders.