7. How is the profession evolving?

The profession has had its fair share of challenges over the past two decades. When RSG began working in the sector in the early 90s, the discussion in law firms centred around practice areas. Firms were withdrawing from private client work, wondering about whether to get into private equity work, and un-enthused about intellectual property. We call this the crisis of what phase.

The debate then moved onto whether firms should internationalise or not. Would clients really want to buy their legal services from a one-stop shop? Or would a best-friends relationship suffice? This then became the crisis of where phase.

Coming closely onto that was a conundrum around delivery models. We conducted a survey of UK managing partners in 2007 where nearly all said they would never outsource or use a third party provider. By 2012, nearly all had some kind of scheme underway, if not their own captive low cost centres. This became the crisis of how, which to a degree is still on-going although most firms accept that efficiency is not a dirty word.

The next phase for firms was one of differentiation and identity, again one that is on-going. Why are firms in business? What is their mission and their differentiator from peers? Many looked to innovation as the answer.

Now we may be entering another phase. The crisis of who. With the explosion in the type and number of alternative legal service providers, this has become a controversial point. Do legal services have to be delivered by lawyers? Technology and managed legal service providers have become close bedfellows and an increasing alternative to the law firm for some types of legal work, of for the more savvy law firms, a component of their offering.