The practice of law has changed, starting in London, and moving fast around the world. The four biggest law firms are the “Final Four” accounting firms, with law licenses in many countries and over 10,000 lawyer employees collectively. British solicitors (their term for non-trial lawyers, where trial lawyers are barristers) firms like Eversheds, Allen & OIvery, Clifford Chance, and Wilmer Hale have founded “Alternative Legal Services” firms as a controlled part of their operations. Other ALS firms like United Lex have passed the “Unicorn” level of $1 billion per year in sales. Thompson Reuters, itself a major provider of alternative legal services, posted a report on “Alternative Legal Service Providers 2019” that said litigation support, document review (including M&A due diligence), legal research, e-discovery, and regulatory risk and compliance are all service areas with active ALS provider involvement. Regulatory work was, in fact, the original in this field, with Linklater’s “Blue Flag Regulatory” selling bank compliance information at more than $3,000 per month per customer starting in 2008. The report estimates that ALS sales grew from $8.4 billion worldwide in 2015 to $10.7 billion in 2017.
Technology as a part of practice affects every size of law firm, not just the giants. Corporation, LLC, and other entity formation providers like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom offer online Q&A, filings, and even lawyer review of simple packages — though they may miss tax registrations, licensing, zoning, and the other complications startups face. Within their limits, though, the automated fill-in forms they do provide can be delivered at little additional cost for the provider, which means lawyers paid by the hour cannot easily compete for the specific service. Accounting and filings companies focused on regulations cover other parts of the field that small company lawyers used to manage. Even law firm management software companies are involved, though in their case, often as providers of information on rates, as well as on practice methods. Clio, for instance, provided data on over 60,000 users in a 2017 study, including hourly rates, usual number of hours worked per week (only about two days billable for small firms, alas), and amounts paid for different types of case (usually less than $1,000). Any lawyer who is not efficient will not eat.
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