According to Steve McGarry, president of the Association of International Law Firm Networks (AILFN), in 1989 there were just five law networks and 15 accounting networks. Today, he noted, there are 200 whose members annually provide more than $250 billion of professional services.
Mr McGarry and the AILFN have just released a report citing predictions for the year 2022. He said one of the predictions that is set to play out in five years until then are law firm networks becoming the new mainstream model for global legal services.
Mr McGarry explained that the network model will be adopted by large law firms, in particular, to grow and manage their global businesses.
“Many law firms have been reluctant to promote their network memberships. This will change as the largest firms form their own networks,” he added.
“The largest 20 firms have multimillion-dollar marketing budgets with brand names. Brands will increasingly become far less relevant.”
Mr McGarry said another prediction is that networks will become increasingly sophisticated in the use of technology.
“The costs of dues will increase for networks to compete with the 20 largest firms who are forming their own networks. However, the formation of these new networks will validate the network model,” he said.
“Legal networks will begin to produce common products that can be used by members for serving clients. These branded products will promote the networks.”
Another prediction Mr McGarry and his association expect to play out will be networks changing their strategy in regards to their competition.
“Networks will see that their members’ competition are not other legal networks but the 20 largest international firms with their networks and the big four consulting firms which are themselves networks of independent firms. They will strategise accordingly,” he said.
“At the same time, networks will realise that they can offer non-networked firms, that range from 50 to 2,000 lawyers, access to their networks.”
In conclusion, Mr McGarry has predicted that law firm network membership will grow by 20 per cent to 30 per cent over the next five years.
“New opportunities are created for networked firms. It will change how lawyers are found, engaged and price their services,” he said.