How Are The Big Firms Responding to Increasing Competition from Talented Contractors?

Posted at Legal Practice Intelligence - 29 June 2015

by Peter Frankl

Clients of law firms are accessing lawyers and accountants through new channels, facilitated by online services and new-model firms.

More accessible than ever before are talented and experienced professionals who are willing to provide services at short notice and on a contractual basis. These developments have the potential to cause slippage for incumbent service providers.
How are the big firms fighting back against online marketplaces for highly skilled professionals? By creating their own online marketplaces.

In late 2014, Corrs Chambers Westgarth created Orbit Legal, promoted as: “Lawyers when you need them” and “A new way of delivering highly responsive legal expertise.”

Also in 2014, McInnes Wilson Lawyers created Lexvoco: “Legal expertise when clients are under resourced or lacking the right skills. Our team can work in your office or remotely, for days, months or years.”

Both of these services offer their own staff (to an extent) as well as external lawyers who they recruit for current and potential assignments.

In the UK, lawyer contracting businesses have been set up by many large law firms. The first might have been Berwin Leighton Paisner with its Lawyers on Demand business. Berwin Leighton Paisner has been offering such a service since 2007.

The delayed introduction of this type of service in Australia may be because law firms don’t want to disrupt their existing (more profitable) service delivery model. Eventually, fighting market forces and technological developments becomes a lost cause. 

In Australia, the latest move by a big firm comes from KPMG, with its new service called KPMG Marketplace. At this stage, and possibly because it is so new, it is only offering KPMG staff. How long will it be until it starts offering external professional people as well as legal services?


The end of employees?

Speaking at a CEDA conference recently on the topic “Future jobs, where will they be?” Phil Ruthven, executive chairman of IBISWorld, says that the workforce needs to escape the shackles of industrial age type thinking. He expects that the term “employee” will disappear between now and the middle of this century. By then, most workers will be working under contractual arrangements. The younger age groups (aka Gen Y) want to be free agents and will want to be treated as businesses in their own right.


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