Just a couple of generations ago, professionals stayed in their lane. The clergy ministered. Accountants did accounting and attorneys practiced law. Those days are over.
Pressures from the Financial Crisis of 2008 resulted in a distinct shift in the legal services industry as more general counsels brought work in house. Legal budgets were cut. This was nothing new. The legal services industry had been soft in previous financial downturns. What made this season different is that rather than rebound, the legal services industry shifted.
Companies started looking for non-lawyer specialists to provide non-legal services that attorneys traditionally provided like strategy and dispute resolution. Technology provided more and more internet platforms resourcing individuals and companies to help themselves to services that otherwise would have been provided by a law practice. Technology opened the door for disputes to be resolved using artificial intelligence platforms. Non-lawyer ownership of law practices has gone from consideration to realization. Legislators have expanded the services that para-professionals may provide without a law license and professionals are getting out of their lane.
Deloitte, an industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory accounting firm is one of the giant Big Four professional services. This month it doubled the size of its U.K. legal arm. The company will take on all 29 partners from Kemp Little, a law firm specializing in technology and digital media. Deloitte is also expected to take on approximately 57 additional lawyers in a deal expected to be complete next quarter. Michael Castle, the managing partner for Deloitte Legal in the U.K., said in a statement: “Today’s announcement is a milestone in the evolution of the delivery of legal solutions. Kemp Little is market-leading in the practice areas that Deloitte Legal has identified as being core to its offering. These areas are all synergistic with Deloitte’s wider business, meaning that we will be able to offer end-to-end professional services in areas like commercial technology and digital media.”
This is not an end to an attorney whose law practice is in the top third of the legal services industry. It is the end of the attorney whose law practice is in the bottom third. And it is the squeeze on attorneys whose law practice is in the middle to shift or get out.