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02 March 2021

'Having ridden out Covid-19 mid-sized firms must now embrace transformation agenda'

Practices face looming threat posed by large international rivals, video Q&A hears

By John Malpas

While most law firms performed far better than they originally feared in 2020 – with some doing “embarrassingly well” – mid-sized practices now face the prospect of their larger rivals pulling decisively ahead as the Covid-19 threat recedes, according to a Global Legal Post video Q&A.

Paul Browne, of Lexington Consultants, says investment by large international firms in improving collaboration and integration across their networks is starting to translate into improved profitability after a long period of sluggish growth when compared with the super-profitable global elite and a band of highly successful specialist firms.

And while some firms did "embarrassingly well" during the pandemic, smaller mid-market or regional firms now face big strategic questions, Barclays’ former head of group strategy contends. “Not only are the big firms taking more of the margin, the clients who will pay top margin for cross jurisdictional, cross-sector, complex matters are going down that route. You’ve got new competition from the big four who will eat some of these smaller firms’ breakfasts and of course new business models entirely.”

The video was recorded to preview a key topic of a three-day interactive online strategic management course hosted by The Global Legal Post in association with Lexington, which kicks off this Friday: Preparing your law firm for success in the post-pandemic era. It featured The Global Legal Post’s Anne Gallagher, former director of global communications at Jenner & Block, who interviewed Browne and Lexington co-founder Moray McLaren.

McLaren says firms need to pursue a “transformation agenda” that involves posing and answering difficult questions about their business models and whether they are targeting high-value work, or standard work supported by technology and improved systems, or, indeed, a mixture.

While lawyers are inherently good at solving problems, he argues, they haven't historically been as good at “integration and co-ordination with people across countries on how to put that work together if you are going anywhere near the standard work”.

“The latest AI tool that everybody wants is called Luminance,” he adds. “People forget that it was the leading English firm Slaughter and May that invested in that business and when it is the leading intellectual firms investing in technology we know it is something everybody has to embrace.”

To watch the video, click here

Preparing your law firm for success in the post-pandemic era will run on the first three Fridays in March. For more details click here for further information and here to download the programme. Or email jeanlhomme@globallegalpost.com.

Also in this video series:

Making business development work

Making technology work

Email your news and story ideas to: news@globallegalpost.com