Looking for a piece of the bigger picture

The legal profession has reacted with varying degrees of shock, horror, sympathy or dismay to the news of Wilde Sapte's vote to join Arthur Andersen. How could they? is the question being asked by everyone.

But, as is becoming blatantly obvious to all, the profession has some tough choices ahead of it. In the past, alliances with US practices were similarly sniffed at.

Cultural differences were alluded to, as was the endless and exhausting number of billing hours demanded by US firms and the sheer difficulty of getting such alliances to work.

The British firms were not enamoured with their US counterparts and generally vowed not to get into bed with them.

The net result was that Americans simply opened up their own offices in England and got on with it.

The same can be said of our friends, the accountants. Despite rules forbidding multidisciplinary partnerships, they have managed to put together international legal networks and have even managed to become the biggest legal players in some European countries.

Change is always a difficult prospect, but for some time now it has become clear that the status quo is simply not viable for many law firms. Which is why, of course, many are attempting to focus on their future at this time.

Getting a competitive edge is more important than ever and only by looking at all the options and thinking the unthinkable can firms ever hope to move ahead.

The profession may well sniff at Wilde Sapte's move but it is a good bet that, in the next decade, Arthur Andersen will be one of the big 10 international players delivering legal services.

Who could blame Wilde Sapte for wanting a piece of this action?