A&O’s Morley on the future of legal services: reinvent or disappear

Allen & Overy (A&O) senior partner David Morley says the world’s top firms will need to reinvent themselves over the next decade if they are to remain competitive.

Morley makes his predictions in a video interview (scroll down) as part of The Lawyer’s wide-ranging crystal ball-gazing issue on Monday (2 September).

During the interview Morley confirms his belief that the market is “entering a period of very rapid change” with new forms of competition coming into the market.

“Law firms genuinely will need to reinvent themselves and their business model over time,” adds Morley. “The only thing which matters in the future is your ability to compete in that world.”

Five years ago, the last time The Lawyer looked into its crystal ball, Morley proved to be particularly prescient. Interviewed for The Lawyer UK200 Annual Report 2008, Morley’s predictions included the suggestion that the geographic footprint of the world’s largest firms would continue to “spread into other emerging markets such as Turkey, Ukraine and Morocco”.

Video:

David Morley, Allen & Overy

Morley also predicted that the emerging markets would make up around 15-20 per cent of the revenues of the global elite and that most of that group would have developed captive legal outsourcing operations in South Africa, New Zealand, India or Australia, or “other business methods for delivering high-quality, lower cost work to very large relationship clients”.

In today’s interview Morley admits he has “absolutely no idea” how big A&O will be in 10 years’ time “because we’re not focused on growth for growth’s sake”, but says it is likely the firm will be larger.

“Paradoxically we could end up with a larger network and be smaller because the business model is changing. So more places but fewer people,” Morley adds.

Morley says the UK will remain a key part of A&O’s network, particularly because of the importance of the English legal system, but says that the current 35 per cent of the firm’s total revenue that the UK contributes will reduce to around 25 per cent as other parts of the world grow faster and its global fee income sees a “rebalancing”.

Morley also believes that in 10 years time, Asian law firms will begin to be represented in the global top 10.

In a second video interview next week alongside The Lawyer’s predictions issue, DLA Piper global co-chairman Tony Angel offers his predictions on what the legal market will look like in 2023.