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The legal market is changing rapidly. There is opportunity out there for those firms who are positioned to take advantage, but, for many, the investment required to rebuild after several years of austerity is a big ask. Both in the UK and in the US, there is evidence that law firms have paid almost all of their attention to profitability and PEP rather than to cash flow and balance sheet strength. There have been a number of well publicised insolvencies and significant attrition amongst the very smallest firms such that the number of firms in existence at the end of 2013 is less than it has been for several years – but there have not been the mass failures which were then predicted.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA has been expressing concerns about the issue of ‘financial stability’ for some time. In mid-2013 the SRA introduced a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) rating system to assess the financial stability of firms and indicated that as many as 20 per cent of the top 200 firms could be showing evidence of financial instability.
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