Almost a quarter of legal eagles have fallen victim to a cyber attack or fraud in the last year

Hayley Kirton
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Lawyers also have an increasing number of days in lock-up (Source: Getty)

One in four law firms has fallen victim to a cyber attack or fraud within the last 12 months, with London legal eagles among those most at risk, figures out today reveal.

The NatWest 2017 Legal Benchmark Report found 24 per cent of firms had suffered this sort of loss in the last year, and that rose to more than a third (36 per cent) among London-based firms.

However, firms in the north east and the north west topped the rankings for cyber crime or fraud incidents, with 37 per cent reporting they had fallen foul of a wrongdoer. On the other hand, just nine per cent of Scottish lawyers said the same.

Percentage of firms suffering from a fraud or cyber attack in the last year by location

North east and north west: 37%

London: 36%

Wales, midlands and east of England: 30%

South east: 24%

South west: 16%

Scotland: 9%

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The study stressed it was crucial lawyers did their upmost to protect data, particularly given the hefty client deposits they often held. The bank discovered the 269 firms it surveyed held £2.3bn in client cash.

The NatWest report also discovered the average number of lock-up days – the number of days work a firm has carried out but is yet to have been paid for – had risen to 113 days, four days more than a year ago.

The research found firms struggled more with getting a grip on lock-up the larger they grew. The median average for small firms was 84 days, rising to 131 days for large firms and then to 142 days for very large firms.

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"The legal sector is confronted by many challenges, from the rise in cyber related crime to the increasing difficulty in managing lock-up," said Steve Arundale, head of commercial professional sectors at NatWest.

"However, year-on-year profit per equity partner continues to improve and the 2016 performance is 33 per cent up from 2013. Fees have also grown five per cent which is still considerably above inflation."

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