2018: The voices of private practice management

From rapid consolidation to the rise of the alternative business structures, here leading managing partners set out their vision for the future.

David Stewart, CEO, Olswang

Consolidation will accelerate.  The strong growth in emerging markets, and in particular the China and Asia Pacific markets, will drive a need for greater scale and globally integrated client service. Our clients rightly expect us to be more efficient and leaner while delivering a high quality of service.  Even a firm of our scale is now regularly working with LPO providers and experimenting with our own onshore low-cost delivery centre.  I think there will be a greater mix of qualified and non-qualified fee earners, and this will drive a more diverse workforce, which is a good thing.

Richard Kemp, founder, Kemp Little

With the Legal Services Act you can see different, vertical business areas starting to come together more and we may start working with consultants more in ten years’ time.

Independent Iberian firms have maintained excellent positioning within both the Spanish and the Portuguese markets through out the last years, therefore I believe they will still lead the market in five years time. International strategies will definitely play a crucial role given the globalised world we live in.

Luis de Carlos, managing partner, Uría Menéndez

Independent Iberian firms have maintained excellent positioning within both the Spanish and the Portuguese markets through out the last years, therefore I believe they will still lead the market in five years time. International strategies will definitely play a crucial role given the globalised world we live in.

Charles Martin, managing partner, Macfarlanes

Profitability and pay will be under intense pressure.  Great performance will still attract great rewards in all segments of the market.  Those rewards will need to be justified constantly – there will be no entitlements or laurels to rest on. Diversity will increase hugely.  An organisation that wants to compete will need to have the best talent.  Any barriers to achieving that will punish the organisation that puts them up.

Michaëla Urici, managing partner, NautaDutilh

With many new legal markets emerging and showing higher short-term growth rate potential, I believe that we will see those evolve more quickly than would a more mature market like the Benelux.

Rafael Fontana, Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira

It’s quite difficult to foresee what technology will be like – not in five years’ time, but in two years’ time. This is something that could change a lot.

Tobias Bürgers, co-managing partner, Noerr

There will be a small group of excellent independent law firms which will be the leading law firms in this jurisdiction. There’s space for smaller and mid-sized firms as well, but whether they’ll be in the same position [as now], that’s the question.

Tim Eyles, managing partner, Taylor Wessing

The competition and tough market conditions aren’t going to ease up in a hurry, so we’re likely to see continued polarisation. Firms without a well thought out, coherent strategy are likely to struggle, while those that are strategically astute will continue to increase their market share. A lot of firms have good geographic coverage these days, but how many really make the most of that? The firms which are successful in the next five years will be the ones that concentrate on cross-selling between offices and practices, making sure that clients are using the same firm in as many areas and geographies as possible.

Rainer Loges, managing partner, Gleiss Lutz

I don’t think the market will look spectacularly different. Because the different models have successfully co-existed [for many years] I don’t see why that would change

Addleshaw Goddard, managing partner, Paul Devitt

A big impediment to the sector is firms paying lip service to the client’s demands but not delivering them. There will be more new entrants, maybe through independent capital, and not from professional services backgrounds. There will be winners and losers, in other words it will be a period of separating the wheat from the chaf

Tim Skipper, founder, Totum Partners

The role played by high calibre business services professionals in the modern, successful law firm has never been more critical. No more the ‘them and us’ of fee earners/non fee earners – future success will rely on a combination of legal and commercial acumen.

Nigel Mason, commercial property partner, Hamlins

The number of law firms in the West End has diminished dramatically over the past ten to 15 years, especially the small to medium sized firms. By virtue of the fact that there is a smaller number of firms, inevitably, merger activity has got to decline because there are just not enough firms to merge together. I’m sure there will be some mergers but I suspect most of them will be defensive.

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David Morley, Allen & Overy

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Tony Angel