It is a truism to state that the market within which law firms seek to make a good living is a global one. Seen in graph form, the world’s mature economies still display very modest growth rates compared with those able to frantically set about exploiting their natural resources or throw up factories and power stations with terrifying speed.
It is not hard to see why international firms decide to peg their growth plans to BRICs, CIVITs, LatAms, and something they label ‘Asia’. In the corporate world, it is de rigueur to be seen picking up a copy of the Economist, getting on a long haul flight to a Hilton and then returning to rave about the ‘energy’ of the place you just visited. Or risk being left with the nagging feeling that you’ve been left behind.
Corporate counsel at global businesses, though, are not wholly impressed by the brash modus operandi common to global law firms, judging by this week’s roundtable. They see a complex world and a sophisticated legal market – in which they, as trusted advisers, add value by seeking out ‘best in breed’ in each jurisdiction. Instead of settling for an uneven offering from a big-brand firm, they are becoming attuned to blending the many options on offer.
Mergers and foreign offices are expensive, so the dissonance between these two visions matters. The smart money must rather obviously follow the clients’ version. Firms with ambition need to listen more closely.