The number of law firms is now at a record level of 11,182, figures from the Solicitors Regulation Authority have shown.
The figure from last month represents a 2.3% rise on 2011, and a 21% increase on a decade ago, when there were 9,231 private practice law firms.
The current number is made up of 32% sole practitioners, 29% partnerships, 24% limited companies and 14% limited liability partnerships.
These figures go against the general feeling that more firms are closing down, and that numbers are reducing because of merger activity.
One of the reasons for the increase in firm numbers is that people made redundant are setting up on their own, creating niche practices. As the economic squeeze continues, as banks become ever more wary of providing funding, as the LSC remuneration changes take effect and new entrants create more competition it may be that we will see the numbers start to reduce.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more firms than ever in financial difficulties, with banks placing them in special measures. It’s a tough old world out there.
The number of practising solicitors is also at an all-time high, reaching 126,858, a 7% rise on a year ago. The number of solicitors on the roll has reached 163,978. This is another statistic which seems to buck the feeling in the market place that jobs in the legal profession are hard to come by and suggests that the profession is actually quite healthy!
By Stephensons’ Chairwoman, Ann Harrison