Quill:New instructions surge past pre-lockdown levels
Legal activity has bounced back to 130% of pre-Covid levels, according to the latest update from Quilldex. Quill’s free analytics tool that tracks trends across the sector. It is the clearest sign yet of the buoyancy of the market since the UK emerged from lockdown.
The all-cases index shows that new instructions dipped to around 50% of January averages during April and May—but then rebounded to well above that benchmark across most areas of law in July. The data should give law firms confidence for their planning and investment over the rest of 2020 and beyond.
The positive signs align with Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures that show the UK legal industry generated revenues of £2.79bn in June 2020—19.5% up on the previous month.
The upswing is particularly apparent in conveyancing. Here, daily new cases fell to around a third of normal levels in April due to the lockdown, but they are now running as high as 50% above the benchmark. It follows a revival in the property market since lockdown restrictions were eased, and chimes with Land Registry data showing that applications in June were 64% higher in June than in April.
There has also been a rise in the volume of instructions in employment-related cases, as more businesses and employees seek support with employment and redundancy issues. Lockdown may also have impacted family-related cases, with levels of instructions around divorce, childcare, finance and property issues consistently running ahead of average after dipping to 50% of the benchmark in April.
Daily civil and criminal instructions meanwhile hit their highest points of 2020 in July, and there has been a steady rise in work for private individuals on matters like wealth management and tax. Support for probate will have increased in light of an increase in the number of deaths, as reported by ONS.
Quilldex data suggests that the volume of cases relating to commercial disputes has been slower to recover, though as more business activity resumes, instructions should start to near pre-Covid levels here too. Recovery has also been a little slower in immigration-related cases in the light of widespread travel restrictions.
Quill’s managing director Julian Bryan says: “After a tricky few months it is great to see new instructions returning so rapidly to pre-pandemic levels in so many areas of law—and in many cases well exceeding them. It shows that this is a very robust sector with lots to look forward to as the UK continues its journey back to normality. With demand for services set to remain high, law firm leaders can embark on strategic planning and spending with confidence.”
Quilldex data is refreshed daily to show instructions in different case types. Data pulled from the week ending August 14. It is based on a representative sample of around 7% of all law firms in England, Scotland and Wales, using Quill’s Interactive software. It’s free to access and can help firms benchmark performance and track trends in legal specialisms.