Forum magazine realizes it is now common knowledge that the global market for legal services has become increasingly competitive. What is less well-known is that a major source of this competition in the coming years is likely to be an adversary that many lawyers – particularly those in the United States – believed had been banished from the field more than a decade ago. These competitors are commonly known as the Big 4 accounting firms, although in truth they haven’t been primarily “accounting firms” in several decades. Instead, these large, sophisticated and increasingly global firms have been slowly but surely transforming themselves from audit firms, to multidisciplinary professional service firms, to “globally integrated business solution providers” – where an important component of the business solutions that they offer is law.
For the last three years, the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession has been studying this transformation and its likely impact on the global market for legal services. The infographic below summarizes some of the highlights of our research. In this essay, we situate these findings in the context of the broader changes that are happening in the legal marketplace.