Above The Law Looks At The Changes Of The Legal Industry In The UK & Rise Of Axiom

We don’t often reference ATL serious articles  but this one is well worth a read and they’ve culled most of there info from Legal Business mag anyway.

But they are right in thinking that the landscape of the world’s legal industry is going to change very quickly over the next few years

We think the four main factors are

  • China
  • Technology
  • The Death Of The Partnership
  • The Rise Of Specialist Legal Service Providers

Anyway I won’t rabbit on.. here’s the piece and link


Alt.Legal: Apparently ‘Legal Provider’ Is Not How The British Say ‘Law Firm’

Did you hear that sound? Listen carefully. What is that row? It’s the sound of alternative legal providers’ footfalls, gaining on you.

According to Legal Business magazine (a UK-based trade publication), one of the top ten “overall advisors” in the UK market is Axiom. Huh? Let me repeat that. In a survey of major corporate clients in the UK, one of the top ten “advisors” is NOT a law firm, but an alternative legal services corporation.

Step quickly, chaps! We’ve got a spanner in the works, and pretty soon we’ll be ten a penny! (look it up)

Legal Business noted, that this breach of the coveted top ten, was “significant” and “demonstrate[ed] how non-law firm providers are winning over some bluechip clients.” I take something different from these results: Big Law take note, alt.legal firms are not just “winning over some bluechip clients,” we are gaining the respect and trust of their corporate counsel clients. To be recognized as commercially viable is one thing, but this recognition awards that ephemeral prize of every attorney’s desire: prestige. For those of you who believed that change is coming, keep reading. For those that don’t… well, the link probably won’t work on your Blackberry anyway.

So who else was on this Legal Business list? None other than the traditional UK big dogs, such as the entire Magic Circle (Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linkaters, Slaughter and May) and DLA Piper. FYI, the firm that was rudely unseated from the top 10: Herbert Smith Freehills. (Hard cheese, chaps, not trying to give you stick for it.)

If Axiom isn’t a law firm, what exactly is it? I’m not going to lie, even as a person who has loudly, and ad nauseam, proclaimed himself an expert in alternative legal services (cut to me waiting by the phone for Super Lawyers to call), pinning down Axiom’s exact place in the ecosystem is a bit confusing.

Axiom Is Not A Law Firm: Axiom describes themselves as “1,000+ person firm, serving over half the F100 through 13 offices and 4 centers of excellence globally.” (emphasis mine). However, by firm, they definitely don’t mean law firm as we define it here in the good old USA, as Axiom is a corporation and can and does take outside funding. Axiom also prides itself on operating outside of the constraints of the traditional law firm structure. Constraints that include costly overhead, a culture of following precedent, a decentralized command structure and limitations in outside investment opportunities. For more on how Axiom is not a law firm at all, read here.

Axiom Is Part Of The Larger Trend: I believe Axiom’s rise plays into some bigger stories in the legal community impacting law firms directly. For example, The New York Times picked up on some great statistics from HBR Consulting — a leading provider of legal metrics — which found that while companies worldwide increased their total legal spending by 2 percent last year, spending on outside law firms fell 2 percent. While much of this could be attributed to insourcing functions that were previously given to outside counsel and process optimization, sending work to alt.legal providers is becoming part of the law departments’ arsenal for improving efficiency. At Pangea3, we have seen a double-digit spike in demand over this time period, and would imagine Axiom has too, accounting for some of this apparent discrepancy. Plain and simple: the pie is actually getting bigger but law firms are getting a smaller piece. Mmm, pie. I love pie.

Just Like the Rest of Us, Axiom Is Experiencing Explosive Growth: We at alt.legal relate when Axiom says “as leaders and experts in the business of law, we experience a nerdy excitement from helping General Counsel solve business problems.” To the glee of alt.legal providers (and nerds) everywhere, Axiom has been rewarded for bucking the system. Some are even saying that “[a]t Axiom’s current pace, the firm will outgrow DLA Piper by 2018.” As those of us working at alt.legal providers tackle more managed legal services engagements, we’re seeing a rise in legal departments that are seeking large solutions for complex business issues or problems. A few years ago it would have been tough to imagine a non-law firm unseating a law firm to take a spot in a top 10 legal providers list but those times are a-changing.

What Does It Mean: A sea change in the industry is happening now, one where the “practice of law” is being deconstructed, redefined, and opened for new players. This isn’t just a UK trend — we can tell you that first-hand. As much as we are inundated with talking heads telling us that the legal field is evolving and a new normal is coming… it’s true.  The legal field IS evolving, and a new normal is coming.

It’s a new world where a non-law firm can be considered a top legal provider. This isn’t jam tomorrow. We’re more front than Brighton (look it up) and we’re coming soon.