With a significant proportion of barristers spending the best part of 2020 struggling to stay afloat, it will come as no surprise that the past year has been more business maintenance and less business development. As lockdown eases and the focus of the profession shifts to the recovery of their individual and collective practices, and the justice system as a whole, it will be important for chambers and other relevant organisations to focus, once again, on strategic development. This is where the GLP Index, developed by LexisNexis’ Segment Marketing Team, steps in.

The GLP Index is a data driven report designed by LexisNexis to evaluate growth and demand within the industry and help barristers and associated organisations across all specialisms identify opportunities for growth. It paints a picture of the legal landscape in 2020 and demonstrates, through an evidence-based framework, that the ‘pandemic effect’ is not evenly spread throughout the profession. Whilst this will not come as surprise to practitioners and, following the Bar Council’s surveys in 2020, most definitely does not come as surprise to us, the GLP Index makes for interesting reading, nonetheless.

Those with an interest in business development will recognise the significance of predictive reporting and will look to the GLP Index, which LexisNexis produces on a quarterly basis, to identify the emerging trends and guide them in their current and future business planning processes. They, like Chair of the Bar Derek Sweeting QC, might find it interesting that the figures throughout the report demonstrate that “there is pent up demand” in many areas of practice and that “some of what is out there we cannot see, because it is behind a dam that will inevitably burst and, in doing so, will open up a huge volume of work”. An obvious example of this is in the employment law field which, thanks to a strong use of audio-visual technologies by the Employment Tribunals, is identified by the GLP Index as the top performing area of litigation in 2020. Despite a 20% growth in the final quarter of 2020, employment practitioners can expect to see further increases post-pandemic and, with the end of the furlough scheme in sight and redundancies on the rise, barristers working in this area will want to plan their marketing activities accordingly.

A second example relates to property work, which the GLP Index concludes was hit hard in 2020 by a 12% decline in housing sales, the move to home working and closure of the high streets. However, with the Stamp Duty holiday due to conclude in June 2020 and the Government intending to lift all legal limits on social contact in the same month, property practitioners are likely to witness an increase in advisory activity and, as Derek indicates, “an environment in which the number of possession proceedings begins to rise… in direct correlation with the removal of extended notice periods”.

Somewhat less helpfully, although through no fault of LexisNexis’ own, the GLP Index also makes it clear that there is still uncertainty around the future of more challenged areas of practice, such as crime. This is one of the areas in which the predictions of the GLP Index rely heavily on the outcomes of the Bar Council’s pandemic surveys, and the anonymised and aggregated data that the organisation receives through the Authorisation to Practise process. As Derek concludes, “the thing that the pandemic has exposed is the fragility of certain areas. The many areas of the justice system that were being run on a shoe string, pared to the boned, have found themselves being pushed over the edge. That is why we have very significant backlogs; backlogs that were bad enough before the pandemic, but are now going to be difficult to get out of”.

For many criminal practitioners and their clients, the beginning of the health emergency did not signify the beginning of the justice emergency, and nor will the easing of lockdown signify its end. Whilst the presence of such a significant backlog is indicative of a plethora of work which, as was pointed out during a recent Bar Council webinar, our members are eager to take on, the unfortunate reality is that the profession must look to the Government to improve its approach to funding and the operation of the justice system in England and Wales.

Download the GLP Index Q1 2021

Carolyn Entwistle, the Bar Council's Director of Services

George Philpott, the Bar Council's Services Assistant