A slump in the market for legal services could see the UK’s top law firms put greater pressure on their lawyers to return to offices and see them begin to lay off newly hired staff, Keystone Law founder James Knight told City A.M.
The push could in turn benefit fully-remote law firms such as Keystone Law, in offering them a wider pool of talent to recruit from, as those lawyers who prefer to work-from-home look for new, remote jobs.
The law firm founder said the current boom in demand for legal services means there is a “lot less pressure” on lawyers to return to the office, than there otherwise would be in a slump.
However, Knight said any downturn could see layoffs in the legal sector, as law firms cut many of those hired on bumper salaries during the past two years’ “hiring spree.”
First established by ex-Trowers & Hamlins solicitor Knight and former BBC exec Charles Stringer, Keystone Law switched to a remote-working model in 2011, before listing on London’s AIM in November 2017.
The law firm’s revenues have more than doubled over the past five years from £31.6m in 2018 to record highs of £69.6m in the most recent financial year.
Speaking to City A.M., Knight said Keystone’s remote model has allowed it to take a “more entrepreneurial approach” than other law firms, as it is not forced to carry the “fixed overheads” over firms are forced to take, when hiring new lawyers. Instead, Keystone simply takes a 25 per cent cut of any fees.
He said that 99 per cent of Keystone’s new work is brought in by lawyers who join the firm from elsewhere, as he explained that the recruitment of new lawyers has acted as the major driver of Keystone’s recent growth
The company chief executive said the lockdowns also boosted the legitimacy of Keystone’s operating model, as he suggested the pandemic has brushed away many of the concerns clients have around working with remote-first firms.
Looking forwards, Knight said Keystone is seeking to “remain focused” on the UK’s almost £37bn legal sector, with a view to capturing a larger share of the the UK market , which is currently the second largest market for legal services in the world.