Are You and Your Firm Ready for 2020? Three Long-term Trends Arriving Tomorrow.

By Jen Dezso, Acritas US, VP

For most firms, the ink is still drying on their 2020 strategic plans. But you might want to pull the Wite-Out ® (or Tipp-Ex® for my UK-based friends) from your desk and make a few adjustments. Does anyone still use correction fluid? Am I time stamping myself?

Acritas’ most recent research, with more than 2,000 buyers of legal services, is in and new trends are emerging to turn last year’s market conditions into old news.

Below are the three newest trends emerging — and (more importantly) how to use them to drive growth and competitive advantage for your firm.


1. Your client base has a new demographic profile… and new expectations of external providers

I’m a professed data geek and segmentation analyses really get me going. So, when Acritas’ research showed distinct differences between what legal buyers over and under the age of 50 are seeking in their counsel, I completely nerded out. (Part of my 2020 resolutions is to get a life.)

The legal buyer over the age of 50 finds expertise and the strength of individual lawyers most important to driving law firm relationships. This shifts when you look at the legal buyer under the age of 50. The newer generation of buyers is looking at your firm’s ability to deliver practical business advice and how well you communicate… on a proactive basis.

Tomorrow’s legal leaders are building a dream team of proactive, business-minded partners to help better mitigate risk and drive competitive advantage in the market.


What to do: Do a nerdy gap analysis!

Stick with me for a second because this isn’t a complicated analysis. First, assess your current client demographics (client feedback, independent research, ask me—whatever floats your boat). Then, based on what I just told you about how client expectations are changing, assess your firm’s activities.

Lots of clients over the age of 50? Look to see if your lawyers are producing effective thought leadership that demonstrates their unparalleled expertise—this is one of the strongest (and only) ways to differentiate your expertise from other firms.

More clients fitting into the under 50 demographic? Determine how successful your lawyers are at identifying business risks before the client approaches them. Consider training them in how to build these skills and turn these conversations into new business for the firm.


2. Going global is bigger than you realize

Nearly 85% of companies with $1B or more in annual revenue have cross-border international legal needs. This isn’t the surprising statistic.

The surprising information is that 67% of these companies have needs in eight or more different countries—an incredible 35% of companies have international legal needs in 25 or more countries!*


What to do: Align yourself accordingly with your clients’ needs—especially your most important clients.

You don’t necessarily need to have offices in every country your client does business. You might only have offices in one country. What’s important is to understand your top clients’ international legal needs and how you can help clients manage these needs better. Inbound and outbound legal work is one of the biggest sources for organic business growth.

This is the perfect time of year to set up a meeting with your most strategic (aka largest) clients to talk about strategy and big picture topics—not about the specifics for a matter you’re currently handling for them. Think of it as your client relationship performance review.

Ask about how their goals are evolving, how the nature of their legal work is changing, and where they’re feeling the most pressure from management—and where they think risk is highest for their company. Be sure to ask about their global legal needs—not just in the regions you serve. Then help devise a plan for your client to better manage the big picture—serve as the conductor rather than the clarinet player. OK—that was a stupid analogy. But you get my point.

Hey, happy holidays, I’ve pulled together a sample agenda and selection of key questions to ask during this meeting. Click here to download it.


3. ALSPs are gaining strategically important clients AND market share

We recently reported a rise in the use of ALSPs (see more here), but the more important trend is how these alternative legal service providers are gaining traction with companies that spend the most on legal services. And this is especially true of the Big Four (yes, even in the US).


What to do: Focus on attracting—and retaining—talent. Now.

After listening to a corporate counsel panel at the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) recent Northeast conference, I had to admit a disruption ALSPs will bring that I hadn’t considered before: talent wars.

The Big Four have long led the way for progressive workplaces in terms of diversity and wellness programs. Which happens to be exactly what the newest generation of lawyers (both in-house and firm-side) are seeking.

Acritas’ research shows 49% of law firm partners in the last month felt their performance had been affected by physical or mental health issues. This number skyrockets to 60% when you focus on just female lawyers.

It’s time for law firms to get ahead of this growing trend before the best talent looks for greener pastures. While compensation is a strong motivator for a lawyer to leave their current firm, Acritas’ research with more than 1,800 lawyers shows it’s at the bottom of the list when it comes to why lawyers stay at their existing firm. Instead, retention is more strongly driven by culture, leadership, and the teams in place.


Market dynamics are shifting faster than ever before. Acritas has just started analyzing what changes legal decision makers have on deck for the next 12 to 18 months. 

* Exclusive sneak peek at Acritas’ 2019 Sharplegal findings based on more than 2,000 buyers of legal services. Click here to find out how to gain exclusive access to these newest findings. 

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