Law firm networks have quietly multiplied in number, size, geographical reach, and — to a lesser extent — brand recognition. Could highly selective, well-branded, and technologically integrated networks with well-funded centralized management become the preferred legal delivery structure in the coming years by offering more client-centric, efficient ways to procure legal services than mega-firms or the Big Four?
What are Legal Networks and How Prevalent are they?
Legal networks began as law firm “clubs” and, by the 1980’s, evolved into organizations with admission criteria, territorial exclusivity, global reach, and brands. While member firms maintained their independence, they also co-branded themselves under the network banner. This channeled an already well-established practice of accounting firms seeking to provide an alternative to the global reach of the Big Four.
The size and global presence of legal networks has expanded significantly during the past 20 years. Today, there are now approximately 170 such networks comprised of hundreds of thousands of attorneys and several thousand member firms. And while Lex Mundi and World Services Group (WSG), the two largest, may not be household names, their geographic coverage and aggregate attorney numbers dwarf the likes of Dentons and Baker & McKenzie. Why, then, are networks not more visible and how are they different than mega-firms created by relentless acquisition? [Read more…]