Few firms will realise global aspirations, say consultants

Only between 10 and 20 law firms will make it as true global capital market law firms in the next millennium, according to two leading UK and US legal consultants. But they say many more practices will evolve at different levels of the international marketplace.

Ward Bower of US legal consultant Altman Weil told the IBA globalisation session that joint research by his firm and the UK's Hodgart Temporal had shown the imminent emergence of the following seven separate markets for international legal practices:

a handful of global capital markets practices;

a few dozen global corporate/commercial practices advising clients at the mid-market level;

international transactional firms which will “fall short” of global practices because they will not be in all or most of the major marketplaces around the world;

international boutiques which will specialise in niche areas or products;

“domestic importers” – the firms that advise inward investors by developing referral networks;

in-house lawyers in multinationals; and

the Big Five accountants which already have the global infrastructure and brand name recognition to make them “formidable competitors”.

He said lawyers attending a conference on the issue in London in December 1997 had predicted that between three and six UK firms and five to 10 US firms would make it into the global capital markets bracket, along with two or three of the global accountancy firms.