The shifting tectonic plates of the legal market

This short post is written by Steve Blundell, Head of Acritas Advisors at Acritas.

Not a month goes by without a conference or seminar on innovation in legal services. Underlying this frenzy of interest are some profound shifts in the tectonic plates of the legal market.

The migration of negotiating power to in-house counsel, the growth of in-house legal functions and pressure on legal spend have together given rise to a growing plurality in legal services provision.

Last autumn, Acritas published its first ever index of ‘alternative’ brands. Drawing on the feedback from over 2000 GCs in major companies, this index is remarkable for the diversity of players it features: Thomson Reuters heading the list, most closely associated with technology and information provision, LOD and Axiom with lower cost solutions, and the Big 4 with global brands and service range.

This diversity in the shop window reflects the willingness of legal services buyers to shop around more widely – not just for a better price but for better solutions to their needs. Faced with these challenges, how are law firms responding?

Many have built their own ‘alternative’ businesses. But one major law firm buyer commented this week, “Most firms have built these for their own purposes, to preserve their margins, rather than to offer clients a better solution or outcome.” Perhaps this is why in Acritas interviews over the past year, shockingly three quarters of buyers of legal services have never seen anything innovative from their law firms!

This may reflect both a paucity of real innovation from firms, but it also demonstrates that even for firms that are innovating, persuading their client-facing partners to engage with and promote these innovations is perhaps the greatest challenge of all.

Steve Blundell will be speaking more about this topic at Disruptive Innovation in Legal Services on 19 April 2018