Law is not a profession that is standardized across the world. The law and its associated value systems, moral codes, normative principles–have been highly debated since time immemorial. However, there is one thing that we as a global society understand about law; it is necessary everywhere.
It is no longer sufficient for a law firm to simply be local, and full of experienced professionals. There are new demands in this modern world; demands for a tech enabled legal team, streamlined legal operations, and–recently–demands for globalization. One definition of globalization is, “the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale”. In the context of law, we can understand globalization as the natural next step a company/law-firm might take after aligning itself with some form of legaltech.
Alternative Legal Services solved the problem of efficient, flexible and cost effective legal services. Legaltech even further rectified whatever efficiency issues a legal team had. But then, where does globalization come in? What specific bottlenecks does it solve? We could start by looking at the sentiment that’s driving the constant reconstruction and metamorphosis of legal-teams in today’s world, a sentiment that’s shared by Luis Fernando Guerra, Managing Partner of Deloitte Legal Spain, “Law firms have the unquestionable challenge of adapting to change.”. It’s interesting, the interview with Guerra originated from an article that questioned the managing partners of eight large law firms in Spain and Portugal about their projections for the legal industry in 2020. Guerra mostly spoke on legaltech, while the Managing Partner who was interviewed directly after, Duarte De Athayde of Abre Advogados, argued that globalization would in fact be driving progress within the legal industry. Athayde made an interesting correlation, drawing on the topic of technology and the lighting speed at which it propulsively dominates not just the legal industry, but every industry in the world. With the emergence of each new gadget, software, product, come a unique set of challenges and inquiries. As Athayde rightly pointed out, “lawyers must be a step ahead for better understanding of the situations and propose legal solutions for the new market realities”, and the reality is, the new global market is entirely hinged on tech, which means globalization and legaltech are inextricably intertwined. In this new age, tech is borderless, thus demanding a type of law is also borderless.
It is now very much an issue of how the legal professionals under your umbrella can benefit others
It’s not just legaltech that’s putting the pressure on legal teams to globalize, but the ALSP market as well. Alternative Legal Service Providers use their talent pipelines for flexible legal resourcing. It’s a lucrative industry, and the pressure to maximize one’s talent pool is only getting bigger. It’s not just that law companies want to dominate an area’s legal-sphere to acquire the best clientele and legal talent for themselves, it is now very much an issue of how the legal professionals under your umbrella can benefit others. Let’s take Pinsent Masons for instance, an international law firm headquartered in London, UK. This past December, its ALSP branch, Vario, acquired two ALSPs in the German market. Pinsents already had three offices in Germany, so Vario’s expansion into the market was seen as an “obvious next step”, as stated by Managing Director Matthew Kay. Xenion, one of the ALSPs Vario acquired, was one of the few flexible resource providers in Germany that handled over 150 placements in the last three years. By acquiring Xenion, Pinsents is ensuring their presence is felt all over the German legal market. Dominating the German market as a provider of legal services was not enough, nor was it enough to partner up with legal tech startup Genie AI to provide tech enabled services–Pinsents had to complete the triad; it had to secure the ability to provide assistance to the German law firms/in-house counsels themselves.
You’d be hard pressed to find a successful law company that isn’t expanding its global reach by offering Alternative Legal Services. The largest, most prestigious international law firms are the very ones that ensure they offer flexible lawyering as a service; DLA Piper, Clifford Chance, EY, Allen & Overy…the list goes on. Those 4 companies alone make up a revenue total of $43 billion. The beauty of ALSPs and offering contract lawyers is that they’re the border-evading secret weapon of the legal industry. Technically, ALSPs (for the most part) don’t classify as law firms, it’s in the name, they’re alternative, they provide the lawyers, but not the legal services. Some of these ALSPs would rather identify as ‘professional services networks’, especially if their global reach sprawls over continents, like Eversheds Sutherland for instance. They’re a titan within the legal industry, with 69 offices in 34 counties, and as such are one of the 50 largest legal practices in the world. With such massive global coverage, it’s no wonder why the ALSP they spun off in June 2019, Konexo, has a dedicated service called Konexo hub, a legal tech based portal designed to support in-house counsel and aid them in outsourcing legal work. With Konexo hub, finding legal help anywhere in the world would be almost effortless. Prior to being spun off from Eversheds, Konexo was generating about £40m in revenue at the time and was projected to grow to £100m over the next five years due to its spin off, but by tapping into the global legal resourcing market with Konexo hub, perhaps it’s growth will be accelerated.
On Allen & Overy’s website, they boast of their ‘global coverage’, a proud headliner that outlines its presence in over 30 countries. They define the global reach of their firm as “seamlessly combining our international resources, sector expertise and relationship law firm network to deliver cross-border work in the markets and regions important to our clients.”. Unlike Pinsents, A&O doesn’t have another name for their flexible lawyering platform or their network of relationships to other law firms. They remain slightly amorphous in that sense, not necessarily aligning themselves with the model of an ALSP, a lawfirm, or a tech enabled solution; they represent the future of legal services, a law company that is an amalgamation of services, equipped to handle any legal issue, anywhere. Legal globalization is not just a trend, it is the final piece of the puzzle that fully optimizes legal services. It re-affirms the notion that legal services are needed everywhere, that a lawyer’s work isn’t necessarily limited to one pushpin on the map. Globalization promotes social and professional diversity within companies, and helps to armour legal teams around the world with legaltech. Make no mistake, the global reach of ALSP giants will continue to spread, until perhaps every law firm is “international”.