Are Consultancy Services The Way Forward For Law Firms?
Seamless, integrated, muti-disciplinary legal and consultancy services are on the rise
Eversheds Sutherland's consulting arm generated GBP26 million last year. Its consulting arm is a mix of lawyers, audit and risk specialists.The employment of management consultants and senior business executives is on the increase in legal firms. This enables the law firm to offer a wide range of services, including business strategy and change management consulting. The range of services varies, but it tends to include legal IT solutions, talent management and records management along with legal strategy development and implementation.
The Legal Services Act 2011
The 2011 Legal Services Act was designed to allow non-law firm entrants, such as accountancy firms, to offer legal services. It also enabled law firms to take investment from third parties. Prior to 2011 the accounting firms offered corporate support functions, in the form of tax structuring and the law firms then legally implemented those structures. Today law firms are permitted to advisse on the financial and economic aspects of tax planning, as well as on the legal issues.
Rethinking Legal Business Models
New service offerings have been devised by law firms too. For example Bird & Bird partnered with management consultants ASE Consulting, to create Baseline, which offers IT transformation programmes. Signature Litigation has set up a profit sharing scheme for all members of its practise. Wiggin has combined with Incopro, the technology business, to help clients protect trademark and IP rights. Pinsent Masons has formed a tax team that is a combination of lawyers and accountants. Fieldfisher has a team of management consultants and senior business executives who have worked in the public and private sector.
Legal Professional Privilege
In a landmark ruling, in 2013, the Supreme Court refused to extend legal professional privilege to accountants who give tax advice to clients. It is often argued that this ruling gives the legal profession an unfair advantage.