This author briefed international lawyers of LexMundi law firm network in Jakarta on November 20th on how to grow their practices. The briefing was attended by LexMundi member lawyers from around the world — and took place at LexMundi’s Asia-Pacific regional conference at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta.
Highlights of the briefing included:
The global legal marketplace is becoming more competitive
- A recent study by Deloitte identifies in-house teams are now “looking for tech-savvy, integrated services providers who offer more than traditional legal advice”.
- There’s a greater willingness by in-house counsel to purchase legal services from a range of professional services providers.
- “Conventional law firms are no longer meeting today’s business needs”.
- One-third of in-house counsel, as Deloitte details, “want legal services providers to “bring industry, commercial and non-legal expertise, which currently they do not”.
In the Asia-Pacific region in particular, emerging technologies and business models pose a multi-pronged threat to traditional partnership law firms
- NewLaw firms which second lawyers into the general counsel’s office are gaining more market share and are seen as likely to gain more, according to Sydney-based legal services sector consultant Eric Chin.
- “Axiom, founded in 2000, is the face of this new group of ABM legal service providers [and] has grown its revenue exponentially at 72% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2002 to 2011″.
- During the same period the largest law firm today, DLA Piper, has grown its revenue by 13%. Many partnership-style firms have adopted this model, creating operating units within their firms in an effort to more effectively compete for work.
- Legal startups in online client attraction and retention for lawyers are likely to expand and increase — LegalVision in Australia, AsiaLawNetwork in Singapore and Bengo4.com in Japan are just some examples of these business models.
- Legal startups focused on providing technology-driven solutions in standardized legal forms are capturing some market share in the region. These include Dragon Law in Hong Kong, LawPath in Australia and Legistify in India.
- Some large law firms are also adopting this technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted by some industry observers to be positioned to replace some of the tasks lawyers perform.
It’s important to understand the opportunities, dangers and working elements of international law firm alliance efforts
- Law alliances offer potential attractions – as well as pitfalls.
- The logic for most tie-ups is clear: The economies where member firms operate represent significant opportunities for joint cross-border new business generation for member firms working in concert with one another.
- In order to effectively build a marketing tie-up with another firm, it is not enough to simply establish a relationship and “hope” your new partner refers business to you (however attractive the tie-up may appear in theory)
- Alliance firms must take a proactive approach to business development as a part of their firm culture and the joint alliance business development efforts in particular
- Integral to this process are the efforts of each member firm to serve as a gateway into their market for foreign clients
- Close liaison between member firms to facilitate the mutual arrangement of introductions and meetings with those potential clients in your respective jurisdictions
- Following up during the entire business development process
- Studies on successful legal and professional services alliances point to the ability of professional services firms to successfully generate more revenue and create economies of scale
- Ultimately, law firms can join more than one alliance, however, whether they succeed in generating work from these alliances is the business development strategy + action they develop and deploy.
- Where firms find willing, active and successful alliance partners, they can nurture these partnerships over time.
- In order to maximize new client engagements from alliances, a proactive effort staffed with highly capable business development professionals and characterized by consistent, informed follow-up to the close of new client engagements – is required.
In a Q&A session following the briefing, I detailed how traditional law firms are uniquely positioned to grow their practices in the face of numerous competitive threats via the establishment of consulting practices, centring business development efforts around providing clients with actionable commercial intelligence which firms can then wrap legal services around, building practice areas and individual lawyer practices that most meet the commercial needs of clients.