Clients are more interested in collaboration than competition between their legal service providers.
It makes perfect sense. Clients who have chosen to have their legal service needs met by multiple providers of the same and different types, are entitled to lay down the challenge for collaboration between and within those types.
But two other kinds of collaboration come into play - one obvious and one not so. The first is collaboration between the client and the provider. Obvious I know, but preached more than practiced. My prediction here is that we will see more tools become available to both in order to facilitate this kind of collaboration. (I feel another PERSUIT™ plug coming on). The second I can’t take credit for, having read about it elsewhere (e.g. Richard Susskind, Legal Futurist), I really like it. That’s collaboration between clients themselves. We’ve seen a hint of it in Australia, with reports of an in-house counsel secondment program between Telstra and Westpac. What a great way to swap corporate learnings and keep it interesting for the in-house team. I expect we will - and certainly should - see more of it.
But it gets even more exciting. Collaboration between corporates in their purchase of legal service offerings. Now you’re talking. Why not combine your purchasing power of legal services with another corporate? Hell, why stop there? As Susskind suggests, why not combine the purchasing power of many in the form a co-op for the mutual benefit of all members? Let’s just let our imaginations run wild for a few minutes. Three major corporates across different industries (so they’re not competitors) combine their purchasing power to ask law firms to submit proposals for 3000 hours of corporate tax (1000 partner, 2000 associate), 3500 general corporate hours and 4500 litigation hours, to meet their collective projected requirements for the next 12 months. Sure, conflicts will need to be cleared, but that’s just detail.
There seems no good reason why corporates shouldn’t be taking that kind of approach. That’s just one way to collaborate. A fertile imagination allows for many others. A platform to facilitate it would be gold.