Here's the type of legal services work the Big Four are bidding for

Here's the type of legal services work the Big Four are bidding for

In some ways, I feel like I’ve been reading about the Big Four’s advance into legal, and the redrawing of boundaries and practices that follows, since I was a trainee at Freshfields. The accountancy and consulting giants have always been poised to swoop on a market ripe for competition and disruption and start eating into law firm profits.

On the other hand, the discussion around the Big Four’s impact on legal services seems markedly different today than it was ten years ago. In a market shaken up by ALSPs and legal tech vendors, space has opened up for the Big Four to address different challenges, position themselves in different ways, and bring their firepower to bear for the benefit of clients in a significant way.

 

The Big Four want ongoing run-the-company legal work

It’s fascinating to see their convergence of not just legal advice, but legal process - as Harvard Law School’s David Wilkins says in LexisNexis’ Are the Big Four reshaping the future of legal services? report, they’re interested not in one-off bet-the-company matters, but in ongoing run-the-company matters. 

Read the Big Four report online here

This makes sense - consultants are experts in process change and improvement, and complex process management projects can be almost impossible for large corporates to attempt without serious firepower. At Juro we help mid-market scaling businesses improve their contract process, with a 21-day SLA for implementation, but some of our peers focused on enterprise corporates advertise - at best - 6-month deployments.

Integrated projects with this kind of scale and timeline are fertile ground for the Big Four, who each have hundreds of thousands of employees in dozens of countries. The sheer firepower they can bring to bear, allied to a fee model divorced from the billable hour, makes them an attractive option. Why pay just for legal advice, when you can get legal outcomes too?

 

Can law firms compete with the legal technology offered by the Big Four?

Of course, law firms are fighting back, with innovative offerings and partnerships that aim to provide better value and outcomes when it comes to process work. But developments like Deloitte’s acquisition of Kemp Little show that the Big Four won’t take this lying down, and have no problem spending the considerable funds at their disposal to further blur the lines between legal advice and legal process.

Increase your team's productivity with these legal tools

What does all this mean for the client? Well, hopefully, if that customer is a GC or in-house legal leader, it means more time to work on bet-the-company matters, rather than run-the-company matters. 

In-house lawyers continue to strive to be business partners advising on key commercial questions, rather than reactive cost centres churning through yet another contract renewal cycle. Whether it’s offloading huge, ongoing projects to the Big Four, or offloading low-value contracts to be self-served by business teams, the goal for in-house lawyers has to be the streamlining of their tasks, in order to make room for the high-value work they’re trained for. This trend shows no signs of reversing or even slowing - it’ll be fascinating to see where we land this time next year.

Read the full report online here
 

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About the author:
Richard Mabey is CEO and co-founder of contract collaboration platform Juro, which helps high-growth businesses in 45 countries manage contracts. Previously Richard was a corporate and M&A lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. FT Intelligent Business named Richard one of the global top ten legal business technologists in 2019.