How much time does BigLaw have?

Dialogue is pleased to publish, How much time does BigLaw have?, a question posed by London-based Mark Rigotti, joint CEO of Herbert Smith Freehills. Read why Mark asks this question, and my reply in the first comment.

Congratulations to you and Imme on a comprehensive and helpful piece. Remaking Law Firms covers many issues with a good blend of academic anchoring and real life client and practitioner insight and anecdotes. I like it!

A thought, one missing bit for me is the ‘pace’ issue. I agree with many of the trends you identify and their use to support the case for ‘remaking’ with the focus on BigLaw. But how fast does a BigLaw firm need to ‘remake’ itself? In a sense, how much time does BigLaw have?

Think about the predicted death of time billing; it has been going on for at least 15 years. If big firms had been among first movers, they would have forgone profits for the partners of then and today; although maybe they would have developed skills and an experience bank to benefit the partners of tomorrow. 

I would welcome your views on pace. No firm wants to move too late, but I am not sure there is much to be gained from being first and furthest on some of the Remaking changes you advocate.

Editor’s note: Mark was of the BigLaw leaders who contributed to the research undertaken we undertook in writing Remaking Law Firms: Why & How. To Mark and the 39 other contributors, Imme Kaschner and I reiterate our thanks.

Mark Rigotti

Mark RigottiMark is the CEO of Herbert Smith Freehills, alongside fellow CEO Sonya Leydecker.

Prior to becoming Joint CEO Mark was a partner in the Banking & Finance group where he focused on the leverage and project finance areas.  He has been a member of the management team for some time, having led different practice groups at different times and involved in a range of leadership and management matters, before taking on a role managing the firm’s client portfolio. Mark is a member of the firm’s Council, co-chairs the Global Executive and is Chairman of the Global Diversity and Inclusivity Group.

Based in London, Mark may be contacted at

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George Beaton

Mark’s question is one we hear with increasing frequency and therefore timely. Thank you for focusing the attention of The Dialogue in Remaking Law Firms community on it. Since publishing Remaking Law Firms in March 2016, we have undertaken a major research project in an endeavour of shedding some light on answering ‘How much time does BigLaw have?’ The findings were published in April 2016 in this report Evidence: Why BigLaw firms must start remaking now. Five major regions of the world are covered. In three sentences, here’s what Ross Dawson (my collaborator) and I found: 1. The majority of traditional law firms are at risk of being overtaken by the tide of change. 2. As a consequence they will suffer reduced capacity to invest in serving their clients and progressive falls in profitability – a vicious downward spiral. 3. A small number of pathfinder BigLaw firms are starting to demonstrate the advantages of remaking their business models. We invite readers to decide for themselves. beaton has also recently published a meta-analysis of published data on the trends in BigLaw profitability in three jurisdictions: UK, US and Australia. In Has the juice been squeezed from BigLaw’s business model, beaton’s Ben… Read more »

John Grimley

if Big Law firms continue to focus on the GC as their primary client – there will be very few traditional BigLaw firms in the future. Most will have lost the competition for survival to NewLaw, the Big4 and LegalVision-style business generation entities that funnel work to lawyers (yes, in B2B, too). But this path to obsolescence is a near certainty because the discussions around who BigLaw’s clients are – focuses on the GC – and what needs to be done to win marginal advantage in competitive tenders to a shrinking group of MNC’s. The world economy holds so many opportunities for BigLaw firms to find and engage clients that are not the GC in traditional client pools. But because the conventional wisdom discussions will only ever cover the GC and seeking to perfect the provision of legal services to the GC – the end is a certainty. And it’s likely to happen sooner than later. As for who’ll capture work associated with the growth and diversity in the world’s economy? Consulting firms and perhaps the Big4. They’re nimble enough and open enough to see this opportunity and pursue it. It’s not if – but when BigLaw become obsolete.