Remaking News of the Week: Some BigLaw firms are becoming platforms

In today’s Remaking News of the Week, I feature Some BigLaw firms are becoming platforms, a premonitory piece by Joel Barolsky.

First published in the Australian Financial Review on 22 June 2018 (paywall), Joel re-purposed his analysis and views on his LinkedIn page:

A ‘club’ is a Tier 2 full-service firm of individual practitioners who enjoy each other’s company. It is a nice, collegiate, shared-office environment where partners enjoy a relatively high degree of autonomy and welcome the occasional cross-selling opportunity.

And the club, as a business model, is about to die.

The principal reason for its demise is that most the individual practitioners that make up the club will not be able to compete. Unless their expertise is unquestionably superior or they have welded-on client relationships, these solo specialists will start to lose out to a combination of freelancers, platforms, networks, focus and one-firm firms.

Over the next five years, some clubs will fold, some will fracture into a series of boutiques and some will be acquired. Most will try address their situation by trying to become one-firm firms. The leadership challenge of this transformation is huge, and the risk of losing star partners and associates along the way is high. Unfortunately, I expect only a small number will be able to make the necessary changes and survive.

The scenario is probable IMO and well-worth contemplating. It reminds of a saying oft-used by the late Ed Wesemann: “Law firms are no more than hotels for lawyers“. Touché. 


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