Baker McKenzie managing partner Alex Chadwick talks to The Lawyer ahead of this year’s Business Leadership Summit in association with Propero Partners, which focuses on the law firm of 2025.
Will market consolidation see the rise of a “Big 4” equivalent of law firms by 2025?
The legal sector is ripe and ready for change and I expect we will see more market consolidation before 2025, especially among the mid-tier. Do I think though there will be a “Big 4” equivalent by 2025? No, but I do think law firms will have to diversify their business models so as to service their clients more effectively and efficiently. This may mean, for example, more law firms taking advantage of Alternative Business Structures and offering legal as well as non-legal advice.
I know from my own experience and the way in which our tax practice is structured (the team comprises lawyers, tax advisers, accountants and economists), that clients value the full breadth of international tax planning advice which we offer alongside our wider legal expertise. By boosting our tax advisory capabilities, we now compete directly with the Big 4 instead of other law firms. Were this model to be replicated across the legal sector, we could well see an alternative and arguably more exciting direction of travel for the legal sector.
How many of your 2025 equity partners will be lawyers?
It’s hard to say but, as I mentioned above, I expect law firms will become more open-minded to having non-lawyers as equity partners. Also, as law firms increasingly focus on innovation and adapting the way in which they deliver legal services, we may see business professionals working equally alongside lawyers and perhaps remunerated as such. We’ve got a few more years to find out!
How do you envisage private practice and in-house working to deliver value in 2025?
Two words: ‘innovation’ and ‘collaboration’. Today, clients want high quality, cross-border legal advice delivered effectively and efficiently. No doubt the same will be true in 2025, but expectations will be even higher as technology becomes faster and more sophisticated. In order to meet these expectations, law firms need to embrace artificial intelligence and the automation of certain time-intensive, low value tasks now. We’ve already seen first-hand the benefits innovation and technology can deliver through AI tools for due diligence, contracts and e-discovery and, in the disputes and investigations space where clients not only need legal expertise but data storage capabilities, its been a game-changer.
It’s not all robotics though. Project management will continue to play a key role in delivering value for clients and ensuring lawyers handle and price matters efficiently in a way that a computer can’t. And, on a more simple level, clients will always perceive value as having lawyers who collaborate and work with them to deliver solutions to increasingly complex challenges. Our new ‘Legal Collabs’ have been a powerful forum for doing just that that.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- Me and my wife are converting a windmill in Norfolk.
- I have a tattoo of my favourite section of the Taxes Act.
- In a few weeks’ time I’m going to be abseiling 540 feet from the top of The Broadgate Tower in London.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Possibly architecture as I’ve always been interested in buildings and design.
With agile working becoming the norm, which spot in the world would you most like to work from?
Anywhere out in the open would be ideal – by mountains or the sea. Having said that, I do enjoy the social and human interaction that comes from working in the office especially in my role, so I think it’s really important to have a healthy mix of the two. Generally, though, it’s great to see how far the legal industry has come in adopting agile working and this is no doubt a reflection of the move away from the billable hour and toward more commercial fee structures.
Alex will be speaking at this year’s Business Leadership Summit on a panel discussion exploring how to achieve growth in uncertain times. For more information on the summit, a copy of the agenda, or to enquire about tickets to attend, please contact Kenan Balli on +44(0) 20 7970 4017 or firstname.lastname@example.org