lone man in a hallway with closed doors

Sir Nigel Knowles, the global co-chief of DLA Piper, and the architect of DLA's remarkable transformation from a regional law firm in England to a major global brand, has published some interesting thoughts in today's on-line edition of The Lawyer. I am not sure that I agree with everything that he says, but I strongly recommend that lawyers everywhere, in large firms and small alike, read and consider carefully his interpretation of ongoing events in the legal markets.

In his article, "The end of the legal market as we know it is nigh," Knowles sees consolidation continuing. Sooner or later, at least one firm will achieve the "magic" 1% global market share that would be a turning point (and perhaps a point of no return) in the consolidation of the market for legal services.  

To quote from his article:

"The firms that will emerge from this struggle will be either truly global or highly niche. With the former, firms that can offer a comprehensive suite of services across all regions will be in a strong position. However, there are firms that claim to be operating globally but are in fact thin on the ground in many regions. They will be found out."

If Sir Nigel is right (and I think that he might be on this point), the middle ground appears to be eroding away.  

Do you even notice it?

If you are in a mid-size general practice firm, which way will you go?

I do not agree that it is an either-or strategic proposition for every law firm. My firm's experience working with mid-size firms, especially in emerging markets, suggests that a very few exceptional, well-managed, and agile law firms will be able to secure, occupy, and sustain a highly competitive position somewhere between the global giants and the niche practices.

Such a feat will not be easy. It will require intellectual discipline, creativity, and -- above all -- the willingness to detect and embrace paradigm shifts while one's competitors are still oblivious to the change or in denial.  

However, one thing is certain. If you wait until there is a compelling case for change, it will be too late.

As my partner (and internationally recognized expert in change management in law firms), Lisa Walker Johnson, says, "The best changes are the ones that we plan, rather than the ones that are forced on us."

Click here for more information about how Walker Clark LLC can help you plan your law firm's future, rather than wait for outside forces to plan it for you.

Norman Clark