Too early to predict an end to Big Law?
Some of the world's global law firms have started to report the first signs of growth following
the recession. Is it true to say that the economic crisis has caused a major change in
the global law firm model or will it soon be back to business as usual for Big Law?
'In my view, focus
areas of expertise will
be the flag that all law
firms will now
replacing the 'dejí vu'
'one-stop shop' and the
The big question is
then: when the hard
times are deemed over
will clients simply go back to old legal business
practices? I think not, they have clearly enjoyed
this 'buyers market' and grown resilient to
higher legal fees on mainstream work. It is then
left to law firms to adapt.'
Pedro Cardigos, Managing Partner, Cardigos
'Many firms pre-crisis were
managed thinking only of profits
per partner, origination and service
credits, and with a compensation
structure that did not create
adequate incentives to work for the
best interest of the client. Many
firms fell into the trap of borrowing
large sums from banks to fund what
they thought was critical expansion.
Of firms that went down that road,
some failed, while many others
were severely affected by the recession.
But it is not easy to change quickly, and many firms will
continue to struggle. For these reasons, I don't see Big Law
going back to the business as usual pre-crisis approach.
However, it has not been the change of model that some
Luis Riesgo, Managing Partner, Madrid, Jones Day
'I believe that we will not see
business as usual. At least
structurally, the greater selectivity of
clients and the consequent need for
increasingly attractive cost/benefit
ratios on the services provided will
be a given.'
João Soares da Silva, Managing
Partner, Morais Leitão Galvão Teles
Soares da Silva & Associados
“I must say, neither one nor the other. Big
law firms are still necessary. Even though the
economic and financial scenario has changed,
corporations still need to develop their
businesses and are therefore in need of
qualified legal services. As law firms we have
to fulfil such needs while adapting, of course,
to the new market scenery.”
Luis de Carlos, Co-Managing Partner,
'At this stage, 'Big Law' is mostly a name for very large UK or US-based firms with offices in many other
jurisdictions. I believe these will remain successful overall and retain a significant share of the market. They will
also remain focused on corporate, finance and capital markets, with some of them doing other things such as
disputes or tax. What I expect to change is the set of locations that they see as a priority: my guess is that
Barcelona and Lisbon will be off the list and Madrid will become less important. Of course we would all prefer
Pedro Pérez-Llorca, Managing Partner, Pérez-Llorca
'I think we all have to be cautiously
optimistic but in my view it will not be
business as usual. The “New Normal”
has introduced changes in legal
practice that are here to stay.
Our clients have learned that they
can ask for more value billing and the
crisis has broken the glass ceiling, with
clients now going beyond traditional
advisers to look for more cost efficient
Juan Picon, DLA Piper, EMEA Corporate Group Head and
Managing Partner, Spain
'Big Law will stay.
But the world has
changed, again, and
are adapting to new
business needs. This
may be a great
opportunity or a major
threat; it depends on
your ability to change.
The future belongs to
those who believe in the
beauty of their dreams.'
Rafael Fontana García, Deputy General Director,
Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira