Consultant model growing ‘significantly faster’ than traditional firms

Consultant style, or ‘Platform’ law firms are growing at a ‘significantly faster’ rate than traditional competitors with Setfords and Taylor Rose MW leading the way amongst Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs). Property law continues to be the leading area of law practiced by consultant lawyers, with a small but growing proportion of family and private client lawyers moving over. Commercial litigation, corporate, employment, commercial contracts, intellectual property and IT & telecoms make up the top 10 specialisms practice by ALSPs. 

The four leading providers, Setfords (492), Taylor Rose MW (470), Keystone (453) and gunnercooke (457), have significantly higher head counts than many of their competitors but there is evidence the sector is gaining depth with Spencer West, Excello Law and Nexa Law now boasting over 100 lawyers. In total there are now more than 3,500 lawyers working at Platform law firms.

The research has been conducted by Codex Edge and reported in their annual Platform Law Firm sector report. Their research suggests that platform firms hire at a higher than average PQE when compared to ‘traditional’ firms. During 2023, the average PQE level at which lawyers moved to Platform firms was 16, compared to the average PQE level for moves across the entire legal sector was 12

“This is not surprising as the model usually requires lawyers to have built up a personal following and have the ability to attract their own clients and work. This favours those in the 10+ bracket, but it is clear that Platform firms do engage lawyers across the entire PQE spectrum.”

Explains Chris Hume, CEO of Codex Edge, adding

“As increasing number of ‘traditional’ firms opt for 4 or 5 day office working schedules, the appeal of the Platform model for those lawyers who saw an improved work life balance during lockdowns and their aftermath has probably grown.”

When looking at the comparisons by gender, the average PQE level at which women in the overall market moved was 10, while the average PQE level for men in the overall market moved was 14. In contrast, the average PQE levels at which women and men moved to Platform firms were 14 and 18 PQE respectively.

And while the majority of movement to consultant models is from traditional law firm structures, the increasing competition in the ALSP market has seen a growing trend to recruit from other consultant-style firms, with Spencer West, Excello Law, Bexley Beaumont, Mezzle and Nexa Law all beneficiaries of this recruitment route.

Law firm Setfords, who sit top of the pile in terms of number of consultants, recruited 141 qualified lawyers in 2023; the highest number of new staff amongst both ALSPs and law firms.

“It’s really positive to see the continued growth of the platform law model,”

comments Guy Setford, CEO of Setfords.

“We’ve always been dedicated to driving innovation in legal service delivery. Being named the top hiring firm of any law firm in the UK is truly a momentous occasion for us. It just shows that this model not only works but is fast becoming the first choice for many lawyers.”

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