Overview

The supply of legal services is complex, with a range of different types of professions and businesses involved. These are shown in the diagram below, with distinctions made between reserved and unreserved services and whether or not the services are provided to the public or to an employer.

Sources1

Solicitors are the largest single profession provding legal services. The ‘others’ grouping comprises the range of other authorised persons. Each profession, to differing extents, has some overlap with solicitors in terms of the services they provide either as competitor or colleague, for example, advocacy services. A short description of the size and struture of each profession in 2010/11 is presented below. Our review found no information on the volume or value of work broken down by whether an activity is reserved or unreserved. Further, in 2010 there was limited information on where different members of the professions work. The Data Platform 2010 is used to provide estimates for some areas.


In-house – solicitors

In-house solicitors are also referred to as ‘General Counsel’ or ‘Corporate Counsel’ though inconsistently.  They are employed to do a range of activities including company secretarial work, managing external counsel, acting as a “cheap” alternative to external counsel, drafting and negotiating commercial terms, dealing with employment issues, giving compliance advice and training, identifying and avoiding risk, structuring deals, managing brands, managing disputes, mergers and disposals, or were involved in industry-specific activities, such as structuring investment products.2

A 2008 survey found that 33% of ‘General Counsel’ worked in the financial sector, with 10% working in the service sector, 6% in manufacturing and 6% in retail. One-fifth of ‘Corporate Counsel’ respondents worked in FTSE100 and FTSE 250 companies combined and over half of ‘Corporate Counsel’ (55%) worked in commercial organisations which were not listed on the official stock exchange.3  This suggests that smaller organisations are less likely to have in-house solicitors.

Average earnings have been found to be higher than assistant and associate solicitors in private practice, but not as high as partners. As might be expected, earnings vary significantly by location (with higher salaries in London), position within the organisation, Post Qualification Experience (PQE), the amount of hours worked, sector, and gender, with women found to earn 7.8% less than men4. Further, LSB analysis suggest that in 2010 39.5% of all in-house counsel were employed in London.5

Legal practice – solicitors

Number of PartnersNumber of firmsAs a %age of all Legal PracticesNumber of SolictorsAs a %age of all Solictors at Legal Practices
Sole Practitioner4,01139%6,7468%
2-4 partners4,82446%19,93623%
5-10 partners1,01810%13,11215%
11-25 partners3483%10,90113%
26-80 partners1551%15,73618%
81+ partners571%20,31823%
All firms10,413100%86,748100%
Source: Admitted staff in private practice firms in 2010 by size of firm, Trends in the Solicitors Profession, Annual Statistical report 2010 The Law Society

Solicitors in legal practice, also termed private practice, operate in a highly fragmented market historically organised in partnerships, and analysed by size of partnership.

In 2010, while sole practitioner legal practices accounted for 39% of the total number of legal practices, they only accounted for 8%  of all solicitors at legal practices. Practices with over 25 partners account for just 2% of the total number of legal practices but 42% of all solicitors.6 Similar fragmentation exists in the US.7

The number of legal practices has grown over time as has the number of solicitors working in legal practices.

The Solictors Regulation Authority reported that:

This suggests that for the past two years, for every one firm that closed just over two new firms opened.

Published data does not distinguish between equity partners (a business owner) and salaried partners (an employee). However over two-fifths of solicitors are partners in some form, with 36.3% of all solicitors in private practice being  partners and 4.6% of all solicitors being sole practitioners. This was 38.3% and 5.4% in 2007.

While the total number of firms has grown, over time, there has been a reduction in the number of sole practitioners. Sole practitioner in relation to solicitors, is used to mean sole owner, and sole practitioners often employ other solicitors, or other types of fee earners. The largest increase has come in the number of 2-4 partner firms, growing from 40% in 2004, to 46% in 2010 – the exact drop in the percentage of sole practitioners. It is unclear to what extent this is due to mergers of sole practitioners into partnerships of two or more, if at all. However, the number of larger firms, those with more than four partners, remains relatively constant over time, accounting for between 13-15% of all firms each year.10

Size and legal aid

The Law Society reported that as at 31 July 2007 there were 3,151 private practice firms undertaking legal aid work in England and Wales:  “Small firms (sole practice and 2–4 partners) represent 79.3% of all firms at which legal aid work is undertaken. Medium-size firms (5–10 and 11–25 partners) represent 19.8% of all firms at which legal aid work was undertaken. Large firms (26 or more partners) represent 0.9% of all firms at which legal aid work was undertaken.11

In 2010, 31% of all firms undertook legal aid work. However the profile by size of partnership was very different to the market as whole. LSB analysis of SRA turnover data from 2010 suggests a greater proportion of legal aid firms are 2-4 partners, with 51% of legal aid firms (LA) having 2-4 partners compared to 38% of non legal aid firms (NON LA).

Chart source12

Size and City of London
By far the largest proportion of solicitors and legal practices are based in London. In 2010, 91 of the 155 legal practices with 26 or more partners had their head offices in London13. The largest 10 of these firms employed 7,473 solicitors or 0.1% of firms employed 9% of all those working in private practice. London is an international centre for law practices with over 200 foreign law firms having offices in London in 2010. The large London law firms tend to operate on an international basis, exporting legal services across the world.

For solicitors, size tends to be measured in terms of gross fee income and number of partners14:

Largest law firms in London by number of Solicitors 2009/10

LondonGlobal%age of solicitors based in London
Linklaters1018256240
Clifford Chance1004309632
Allen & Overy995242441
Herbert Smith861134964
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer749227933
Slaughter & May67774391
Lovells641163739
Ashurst55692660
Norton Rose500113144
DLA Piper472393712

LSB analysis of solicitor turnover data in 2010 shows that there is a strong correlation between number of fee earners and turnover with a correlation coefficient of 0.94 between turnover and number of solicitors, and  0.90 between turnover and number of partners.15

Historically, different measures of size are used in different pieces of research. Examples include:
- Size by number of partners:

- Size by total solicitor count:

  • Size of firm: total solicitor count was used to classify firms as small (1-5 solicitors), medium (6-40 solicitors) and large (41 or more solicitors).17

- Size by number of fee earners:

  • Those with 1 or 2 fee earners are identified as ‘tiny firms’.
  • Those with between 3 and 10 fee earners are identified as‘ small firms’.
  • Those with between 11 and 50 fee earners are identified as ‘medium-sized firms’.
  • Those with more than 50 fee earners are identified as ‘large firms’18.

Each definition has issues, such as how does it apply to other authorised persons, and each fails to measure the range of services offered.

The RIR found limited information on the use of trained but not authorised staff in solicitors legal practice. In 2011, SRA records showed that 9,156  solicitors practices employed 119,385 fee earners,  47,594 (40%) of which are not solicitors.19 It is not known how many of these are authorised persons. The regional distribution of the proportion of non solicitor fee earners and solicitor fee earners at solicitor legal practices in 2010, shows a greater proportionate use of non-solicitor fee earners compared to solicitor fee earners in Leeds, at firms with 2 to 25 partners. It also shows a high proportionate use of non solicitor fee earners for sole practitioner firms in Cambridge. This compares to a higher proportionate use of solicitor fee earners in London.

Distribution of non solicitor fee earners

BirminghamBrightonBristolCambridgeCardiffLeedsLiverpoolLondonManchesterNewcastleNottinghamReadingAll
Sole6%6%9%13%3%5%1%30%12%2%7%5%100%
2 to 412%3%4%3%4%12%9%31%14%2%4%3%100%
5 to 104%3%14%5%4%24%5%20%8%4%6%4%100%
11 to 253%5%8%7%2%20%2%27%13%5%3%5%100%
More than 253%1%7%0%0%4%3%70%4%1%5%1%100%

Distribution of solicitor fee earners

BirminghamBrightonBristolCambridgeCardiffLeedsLiverpoolLondonManchesterNewcastleNottinghamReadingAll
Sole7%7%9%8%4%7%1%32%9%3%6%6%100%
2 to 48%4%6%5%5%7%5%38%11%3%4%4%100%
5 to 106%4%8%5%5%8%4%36%9%4%6%4%100%
11 to 253%7%8%7%1%8%1%41%12%5%2%5%100%
More than 252%0%4%0%0%2%0%85%2%1%1%1%100%

In 2010 the Institute of Paralegals website stated that ”no records are kept of how many paralegals are employed within solicitors’ firms. Our best estimate is somewhere between 35,000 – 40,000, i.e. circa 44% of all fee-earners in solicitors’ firms20.”

One research report21 based on 21 interviews with City solicitor law firms observed that: “Paralegals are often used in areas of work which are very time intensive but relatively standardised. For example the proportion of fee earning staff that are paralegals would usually be somewhat higher than in other areas. This is because litigation work often has a greater need for document processing such as reviewing large volumes of client documents which is time intensive but does not necessarily require as much expertise as other areas of work.”  The report found the use of paralegals was quite common across all types of City solicitor law firms.


Not for profit organisations employing solicitors

In 2010, 498 of the 87,211 solicitors who worked in legal practices are recorded as working at ‘Advice services’.22 These cover organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau’s, Law Centres, and Community Legal Advice Centres.  They provide services free at the point of delivery for their clients, and are funded by legal aid, local authorities, and other charities.

Traditionally these organisations concentrate on social welfare law. The RIR has found no information on whether other authorised persons are employed in not for profit organisations. These are defined as Special Bodies by the Legal Services Act. 23While representing less than 1% of all authorised persons they are a key part of the wider advice sector, which is itself a major element of unreserved legal services. Because of the entity regulation approach taken by the SRA, the organisations in which these solicitors work, fall within the regulatory sphere.

The reasons for these organisations to employ solicitors have been set out by Citizens Advice24 as being:

  • “to provide extra capacity,
  • to extend the range of work you are able to deal with reduce the need to refer clients elsewhere
  • are ‘authorised litigators’ and so entitled to conduct litigation (court cases) on behalf of clients. This includes both taking and defending proceedings.
  • access a potential source of extra income, from legal aid certificated work and costs recovered from the ’other side’ in litigation contribute to supervision and training
  • can comment on new and forthcoming legislation and enhance the contribution bureau can make to social policy work”.

Advocacy

We consider advocacy separately as it represents an area where three legal professions deliver legal services, in conjunction with each other, is undergoing significant change, and is a highly important part of legal services generally.

Advocacy covers a wide range of activity before the courts, and at the lower courts, where the majority of cases are heard, is undertaken by solicitors without additional qualifications.

An expansion in the rights of audience from the lower courts - to allow solicitor advocates and ILEX advocates rights of audience at the higher courts where historically only barristers were allowed to conduct paid advocacy - means that by 2010 there had already been some limited changes in supply. As at 2009, there were only 4,995 solicitors with the higher rights of audience qualification rising to 5,449 in  2010 – 5% of the total number of practising solicitors.25

Aside from situations of Direct Access26, the solicitor determines when to refer work to a barrister or other advocate. Some commentators believe frequency of referring work to barristers is affected by the size of firm, with larger firms keeping more advocacy in house than previously. For example a large legal aid firm reported that over half of its turnover “comes from defence work and 15 out of 40 fee earners have higher rights of audience, including three barristers, and 80% of advocacy work is handled in house27.

The RIR found limited information on frequency of use of barristers by legal practices.

Research undertaken in 2009 looking specifically at family legal aid work found that:

  • “Solicitors tend to instruct many different barristers. For instance, 49% of solicitors’ practices, which in 2007/8 billed five cases that required an involvement of independent barrister, instructed five different barristers, and 31% of them instructed four different ones. It seems therefore that solicitors can choose between many different barristers and one barrister may substitute for another one if needed.
  • Currently self-employed barristers are used in just over one third of cases with proceedings in court
  • Between 2003-08 there was an increase in both the number of barristers and total number of hearings billed which results in stable average number of hearings undertaken per barrister.28

The table below shows the volume associated with each tier of court in 2009, alongside the rights of audience for each of the main types of advocate. Cost lawyers, patent attorneys and trademark attorneys have specific rights of audience in their respective areas, but the RIR has not found any published information on the volume of these types of hearings.

This suggests the limits on rights of audience mean that just 1.6% of the volume of work29 is limited to 16% of all authorised advocates, with the majority open to other types of advocates, e.g. solicitors without higher rights of audience. However a higher tier of courts is associated with more complex cases, which are a likely to be of higher value. For example historically criminal legal aid over half of expenditure goes on cases in the Crown Court.30

CourtNumber of defendants or cases or applications, 2009Self Employed BarristersSolictor AdvocatesSolictorsILEX AdvocatesAs a %age of all casesAs a %age of possible eligible advocates
Appeal Courts24,300YY0.3%16%
Crown104,418YY1%16%
Magistrates (Crime)1,912,632YYYY27%100%
Queens Bench Division18,583YY0.3%16%
High Court (Family)1,440YY0.0%16%
County Court (Family)114,440YYYY1.6%100%
Family Proceedings Court47,430YYYY0.7%100%
County Court (Non-Family)1,879,405YYYY26.9%100%
Magistrates (Civil)2,886,757YYYY41.3%100%

Barristers

As of the start of 2010 the Bar comprised 15,300 barristers of whom 12,250 were self-employed and 3,050 were employed. In addition there are about 5,000 barristers falling into the categories of non- practising (circa 3,600) and overseas or retired (circa 1,400).31
The average annualised percentage increase in the number of self employed barristers over the last five years was 0.8%. The corresponding average annualised percentage increase for the employed Bar was 1.9%. 32

Research by Jomati consultants suggests a long term consolidation of chambers: “The overall driver of this consolidation has been economies of scale. Although some of the growth has also come from barristers moving individually to sets that provide a better platform for their practice33.

In 2011, of the 12,000 self employed barristers, 2,661 (22%) were members of the Public Access Scheme.34This has been in operation since 2004 and allows barristers to provide services to the public without being instructed by a solicitor, effectively removing a barrier to work for the Bar, and can be split into Direct Access and Licensed Access.

Direct Access refers to work undertaken directly for lay clients where the client is responsible for undertaking a range of activities that traditionally the solicitor would have undertaken.

Licensed Access refers to work undertaken for professional clients or organisations:  “Licensed access recognises that there are significant areas of work in which the traditional two layered legal system in which the Bar insists that only a solicitor can refer work to it may unnecessarily increase the costs which the client is required to bear.  Licensed access seeks to highlight the fields of practice in which barristers are positioned to provide specialised advisory and advocacy services on a competitive and cost effective basis without the intervention of a solicitor”.35

A survey by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) found that the numbers of cases taken on varied greatly:

  • “the most common situation seemed to be for chambers where 1-4 members had taken on 1-4 cases, then around the 8-10 members, 8-10 cases mark. A small number of sole practitioners had also taken on Public Access work. 
  • In the case of Public Access practitioners, the most common situation was for Public Access work to take up 5% or less of the total workload over the past year. This usually involved less than 10 cases over the year. The second largest group was the 5-10% group, where less than 10 cases were the norm. Only a few practitioners had taken on large numbers of cases”.36
Most common categories of work offered
by Direct Access Barristers (MAY 2011)
NumberAs a %age of all Direct Access Barristers
1Crime39015%
2Administrative2048%
3Common Law (General)2008%
4Commercial Litigation1977%
5Employment1516%
6Personal Injury1265%
7Arbitration1255%
8Professional Negligence1235%
9Landlord & Tenant1174%
10Regulatory Law1064%
72 Other categories216881%

Table source37

Legal executives

Using the Data Platform, in 2010, there were 7,129 fully qualified legal executives, also known as Fellows. Of these  4,216 (59%) worked in legal practices with solicitors, and 947 (13%) work in house with solicitors. It is not clear where the remaining 28% were employed, but they are assumed to offer services to the public.38 This compares to ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) member research which estimates that 2% of fully qualified legal executives work as sole traders.39

“A legal executive is able to undertake all work that may be undertaken by a solicitor under the supervision of the solicitor, currently subject to specific rights of audience limitations. However a legal executive who has successfully completed and passed the advocacy skills course and evidence test may apply to the Chartered Institue of Legal Executives (ILEX) for the relevant rights of audience certificate. ILEX is then able to award the rights of audience under the prescribed certificate. Legal Executives can act as Commissioners for Oaths, claims managers, immigration and asylum services, and give advice on compromise agreements. Additionally Legal Executives of three years’ good standing can sign client account cheques drawn on their principals’ client account. Legal Executive lawyers employed by Local Authorities or Housing Management Organisations (exercising Local Authority Housing functions) can also exercise certain rights of audience in the magistrates’ courts and county courts acting on behalf of their local authority or housing management employer along with other employees. Legal Executive lawyers are categorised as conveyancers for certain purposes under the Land Registration Rules and in most cases may sign transfer deeds on behalf of their employers in conveyancing transactions”.40


Notaries and scriveners

In 2010 there were 881 Notaries & Scriveners. Scriveners are Notaries who specialise in foreign language service.  Of  these 653 (74%) work in legal practices with solicitors, and 16 (2%) work in house with solicitors. It is not clear where the remaining 24% are employed but they are assumed to offer services to the public.41

They are authorised to undertake notarial activities, conveyancing, and administer probate. It is likely that some of these notaries are also solicitors but the RIR has found no data that can confirm who these individuals are. The Faculty Office estimates that at least 80% of Notaries are also regulated by the SRA, and 1% by BSB.42 They breakdown the notary profession as follows:

  • “The number of Practising Certificates issued to Notaries 2010/11 – 876.
  • Deduct:
  • Scrivener Notaries 30
  • Dual Regulated Solicitor Notaries 676
  • Non-Solicitor Notaries 170
  • Of the 170 Non-Solicitor Notaries 28 hold Clients money.
  • My assumption is therefore that out of our total number of General Notaries, 28 carry out conveyancing and probate because they hold Client money.43

Licensed conveyancers

In 2011, there were 1,107 licensed conveyancers. Of these, the majority work in  solicitors legal practices, as shown in the table below.44 5% of licensed conveyancers offer probate services45. The CLC regulate 215 entities, 49% of which are sole traders, 17% partnerships, and 32% limited companies46. This is reflected in the low average number of conveyancers per conveyancing legal practice, at just 1.8.

Number of Licensed ConveyancersPropertion of Licensed ConveyancersNumber of Organisations
Licensed Conveyancer legal practice39135%215
Licensed Conveyancer working in a solicitor legal practice67561%590
Licensed Conveyancer employed in house91%9
Locum323%32
YearNumber of CLC PracticesYear on year %age
20062100%
2007201-4%
2008193-4%
2009185-4%
20101955%
201121510%

Table source47

Research in 2007 found that approximately 95% of the whole market for conveyancing  – residential and commercial – is accounted for by solicitors, with licensed conveyancers accounting for the remaining 5%.48 The LSB estimated that this was also 5% in 2009/10 based on the volume of  conveyancing transactions.49


Patent and trademark attorneys

In 2010, there were 1,703 patent attorneys. Of these the LSB estimated that 295 (17%) work in legal practices with solicitors, and 357 (21%) work in house with solicitors. It is not clear where the remaining 62% are employed but they are assumed to offer services to the public through non solicitor Intellectual property legal practices.50 Patent agents are a separate profession and are not authorised to provide reserved activities.

In 2010, there were 753 Trademark Attorneys. Of these the LSB estimated that only 172 (23%) work in legal practices with solicitors and 108 (14%) work in house with solicitors. It is not clear where the remaining 63% are employed but they are assumed to offer services to the public through non solicitor Intellectual property legal practices.51

Trademark attorneys are professional advisers on a wide range of trade mark issues. They also advise on designs and copyright. Trademark attorneys will be involved at an early stage in advising on the legal aspects of the marketing of new goods or services and their introduction into the market place.52 Trademark agents are a separate profession and are not authorised to provide reserved activities. The RIR found no information on the split of the volume of work between agents and attorneys.

Both patent and trademark attorneys are regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPREG). Their records indicate that 358 individuals are dual registered and both patent and trademark attorneys – and hence double counted in the figures above.  In 2010, IPREG also regulated 170 entities who deliver patent and trademark services.53

Research looking specifically at intellectual property has found a wide range of possible  advice sources – reserved and unreserved.  A survey shows that over 70%54 of firms sought advice about intellectual property rights. This figure feel as frims got smaller, with 43% of firms with 50-249 employees seeking advice compared to 25% of firms with 10-49 employees. The figure was 20% for micro-enterprises.


Cost lawyers

In 2010, there were 296 Cost Lawyers. Of these the LSB estimated that only 36 (12%) work in legal  practices with solicitors, and  5 (2%) work in house with solicitors. It is not clear where the remaining 86% are employed but they are assumed to offer services to the public through non solicitor legal practices.55 The Cost Lawyers Standards Board (CLSB) estimate that 34% of cost lawyers work in house.56

In 2010 the In 2010 the Association of Law Cost Draftsmen website reported that “cost lawyers have the widest rights of all law costs draftsmen. Law costs draftsmen are concerned with all aspects of solicitors’ costs that are controlled by both statute and common law. They are concerned with costs relating to all areas of the law and deal with every conceivable type of legal matter that touches upon the subject of costs.”  The three main areas in which law costs draftsmen may become involved are:

  1. “Solicitor and client costs – In a dispute over costs a law costs draftsman may be instructed to prepare a detailed bill of costs for assessment, to advise on law and procedure and subsequently, if instructed by a solicitor or a litigant, to argue in support or to oppose the bill.
  2. Public Funded (legal aid) costs: where a solicitor is representing a publicly-funded client, a detailed bill is usually required to be assessed. If an amount has been disallowed in respect of which the solicitor wishes to object, an appointment can be obtained and the matter argued at a hearing.  In criminal cases, the objections to an amount disallowed are usually made in writing and, often, a law costs draftsman will be instructed to prepare the written submissions
  3. Costs payable between parties:  the unsuccessful litigant is usually ordered to pay the successful litigant’s costs and if those costs cannot be agreed, a detailed bill is prepared and served.57

The opportunity cost benefits of using law costs draftsmen is summarised by Citizens Advice guidance: “Paying a Law Costs Draftsmen can be well worth the investment as they will get better value out of a file (assuming it is in reasonable order) and it eliminates the log jam of waiting for a busy solicitor to bill the file which is bad for cash flow. The costs incurred by a draftsman can usually be included in the overall bill of costs and therefore may be paid by the Legal Services Commission”.58

Unreserved: Legal practice – Not-for-profit sector

This sector is made up of a diverse range of organisations, which vary in size, scope, and client base served. These tend to be viewed as a complement to other legal services in that they serve clients who would potentially not otherwise access legal services.

Within this sector, a distinction is frequently made between specialist and generalist advice.  However research looking at Community Legal Advice Centres (CLACs) has found that there is no universally accepted definition of generalist advice: “it usually refers to basic or initial, often one-off, advice, provided by advisors who do not specialise in a particular area of law. Generalist advice provided in CLACs includes the following: provision of information; filtering inappropriate queries; provision of options available to the client; identification of further action the client can take; provision of brief initial assistance (e.g. filling in forms, helping to draft letters, contacting third parties to seek information on the client’s behalf or supporting clients to reach early agreement on a dispute through negotiation); liaising with third parties to identify non-contentious ways of resolving the dispute. The CLAC generalist advice service is also required to establish legal aid eligibility when further (specialist) advice is needed and arrange referrals where the CLAC is unable to deliver the necessary advice.59“ Some of these organisations provide only generalist advice, some only specialist, and some both.

There are a range of different types of organisations in this sector, with a range different representative groups.  The biggest representative group is the Advice Services Alliance: “ASA represent some 1,750 organisations in England and Wales which provide a range of advice and other services to members of the public. About 200 of these organisations currently employ a solicitor. Most of these organisations offer services within a local area, but some of them are regional or national. They are largely funded through public sector grants and contracts, and charitable fundraising. With some limited exceptions, services are offered to users free of charge and are focused on areas of law which mainly affect poorer people e.g. welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment, immigration, education and community care.60Full membership of ASA is open to national networks of independent advice services in the U.K.  In 2006 members included:  Age Concern England, Citizens Advice, DIAL UK (the disability information and advice service), Law Centres Federation, Shelter (which covers  England, Scotland and NI), Shelter Cymru (which covers Wales), Youth Access and Advice UK. 61

Within the not-for-profit sector, a distinction can be made between two types of organisations:

  1.  Charities that provide legal advice as part of their wider work e.g. Age Concern (AC): in 2007 there were Approximately 150 – 175 local ACs have an information and advice service  with 88% providing Generalist Advice, and 82% providing Generalist Advice with some limited casework. Categories of law covered include welfare benefits, health and social care, housing and finding help at home, consumer, etc. Services tend to be a mix of telephone and community based with home visits being a core element of most local AC services. These services average 3.7 paid staff (mainly part time) and 6.4 volunteers62.”
  2. Charities whose main purpose is to provide legal advice eg Citizens Advice (CAB): In 2011 there were  “416  CAB in England and Wales. In addition to main bureau offices, advice is delivered in a multitude of settings including in local GP surgeries, community centres, libraries, magistrates courts and hospitals – in total some 3,600 locations across England, Wales”.63  During 2009/10 CABs helped 2.1 million people with 7.1 million problems. Of the 28,500 people who work for the service, 21,500 of them are volunteers and 7,000 are paid staff.64

However the charity sector is potentially far broader than this. Research repeatedly points to the role of other advisers in providing free general advice:  “One in four of those who obtained advice went directly to a solicitor for advice and just under one-fifth went directly to a CAB.  Other common first points of contact for respondents trying to obtain help with their problem were local authorities, advice agencies other than CABx, trades unions or professional associations, employers, the police, and insurance companies. Almost one in five respondents, however, went to some ‘other’ source of advice and these covered sources such as claims agencies, social workers, ombudsmen, housing association health professionals, court staff, barristers, MPs, religious organisations, the media, social security offices, and consultants of various sorts.65

Doctors and other health professionals made up 7.5% of those people from whom respondents sought advice, providing help in relation to 6% of problems – this is comparable to the advice provided by the CABx (7%).66

The role of this sector in providing access to legal services is important to understand. As one piece of research points out: “the specific use of lawyers in the U.K. surveys is roughly the same as in the U.S. – 27% in England and Wales, 29% in Scotland versus 26% in the U.S. Where the substantial difference emerges is in the use of other third-parties. Moreover, because non-lawyers in the U.K. are authorized to give legal advice (such as volunteer-staffed Citizens Advice Bureaux or proprietary legal advice centres), the effective difference is even greater: Americans received advice from those who are able to give legal advice in only 37% of cases, compared to 60-65% of U.K. cases. Furthermore, a far smaller percentage of the U.K. respondents, as compared to U.S. respondents, “lumped” their problem by doing nothing at all: fewer than 5% versus 29%”.67

Unreserved: Legal Practice – For profit sector

Our review found very little information on the for profit unreserved sector. Unlike the not for profit sector there are few representative groups. Organisations in this sector can be seen as competitors to authorised persons in most circumstances, targeting consumers who are also the prospective target of reserved firms. These range from small micro businesses, through to large branded organisations such as banks and offer a wide range of services, including  employment,  family, business related topics, and general legal services.

Will wrting services are a notable part of this sector. Research shows that only 7% of all wills are written by will writers. The vast majority are written by solicitors and a small minority by other providers68. There are two main will writing professional bodies – Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW), and Society of Will writers (SWW). The IPW has 226 members69 while the SWW has 1,853 members70. This compares to a total of 13,989 solicitors who offer will writing services.71

2011 research by the Legal Services Consumer Panel72 reports that  around 10% of will are undertaken by will writing companies, but indicates a larger growth overtime in the use of will packs or online services.

Provider typeLaw Society (2010)NCC (2007)
Soilcitor67%74%
Will-writing company10%8%
Will pack or online service13%8%
Financial services provider7%5%
Other4%5%

Because of the role of Office of Immigration Services Commissioner ‘s (OISC) role in regulating immigration advisers, we know that in 2010 there were 830 for profit organisations offering immigration advice services, 217 of which are in London and 126 are outside of England & Wales. These organisations employ 2,118 advisers.73 This is believed to cover a wide range of different types of organisation including human resource companies offering managed migration services and smaller companies acting for students.