Collaboration, not fear – how law firms should react to the rise of ALSPs

Guest post by Francesca Turquet, a partner at Konexo

Turquet: Clients want a one-stop shop

The legal industry is always evolving how it meets client demands, from the proliferation of emails creating the e-disclosure industry, to the pandemic forever altering how we work and how we deliver for clients. Law firms that stand still run the risk of being left behind.

The last decade has seen the steady increase of the alternative legal service provider (ALSP) market, as clients continue to look for innovative and commercial solutions to their legal problems. The dividing lines between law firms and consultancies/ALSPs are increasingly blurred.

Law firms need to be collaborating more than ever with their clients who are demanding innovative and bespoke solutions to their issues, which in turn require a diversity of skill set and workforce.

The in-house counsel experience

During my 10 years as in-house counsel in financial services, the issues I dealt with were not abstract but real legal and commercial concerns that the business needed answers to, and quickly.

Solving the problem was only part of it. Nearly always, a one-off strategic or legal answer was not sufficient. Yes, it gave the legal guidance and showed the way, but it did not always implement the long-term sustainable operational change that was needed.

For me, the most important question when working on any issue was that of stewardship – were we leaving a process or issue better than when we had found it?

I quickly realised that operationalising the solutions, making them repeatable, visible, accountable and traceable was just as important as getting the advice right in the first place, and provided the best outcome for my stakeholders and the customers.

The big issues also increasingly required blended legal, consulting and operational expertise and this comprehensive approach is now business-as-usual for the in-house lawyer.

The one-stop shop

In-house lawyers expect to have opportunities to lean on blended legal and operational offerings. They are increasingly wanting a one-stop shop for all their needs, as it can be messy and time-consuming to manage multiple suppliers on one project.

For a while, the Big Four accountancy firms provided the operational capability that the large regulatory projects required alongside more traditional legal advice from law firms, but this model has shifted considerably in the last 10 years.

Law firms are realising that they need to either build their own consultancy arms, such as Konexo which is embedded within the global law firm Eversheds Sutherland, or where the work is not within their existing skillset, collaborate with external consultants and ALSPs who should not be seen as competitors.

Either way, by not collaborating there is a significant slice of work that traditional law firms are missing out on and this will only increase in the future as businesses grow their legal and compliance departments and demand different solutions.

Having been on all three sides of this discussion – private practice, in-house and currently within a consultancy – it is clear to me that clients now have plenty of options to work in a blended way and expect bespoke solutions that work for their specific businesses.

For those of us on the client delivery side, we have to listen to our clients and highly value the feedback we get on how we can continue to deliver services clients actually need in a way that works best for them.

This includes working with suppliers from a range of disciplines, including technology, and combining the skills of traditional lawyers with those of ALSPs to create a true one-stop solution. We have to be nimble and innovative to deliver the projects clients face today.

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