Making predictions is a dangerous business at the best of times, but when a global law network like Globalaw takes a punt on what is likely to happen over 32, surveyed jurisdictions there is cause for lawyers and others to sit up and take notice.

The Globalaw survey canvassed members and found that global transactions would become increasingly complex while inhouse counsel would better manage legal processes in terms of both processes and counsel used.  There was also, they found, likely to be a greater effect on wealthy individuals, or Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI) and their investments and activities. Networks will become more important and non-legal professionals will increasingly be part of law firms’ service offering.

The survey found that European banking and financial services sectors are undergoing extensive change having an ongoing impact on traditional funding models. UHNWIs will be given additional incentives to facilitate business creation opportunities and  there will be an increase in private equity business and Chinese global investment will continue to be a dominant factor. The funds market will remain strong and will continue to attract UHNWIs, delivering a steady flow of business to firms in Western Europe.

 Latin America

Secondly, several firms predicted that in its own right Latin America will become a major global legal market with an increasing number of Latin American companies growing to become multinationals, creating significant opportunities for international legal networks.

The survey noted that the consolidation of the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru) in particular is a real opportunity for growth throughout the region, noting that in the next two decades there would be a Portuguese-speaking legal market that will emerge with a common legal basis, comprising around 300 million people.

Increased competition

A number of respondents predicted that the global legal market will be marked by increased competition and that jurisdictions offering  efficient and cost-effective services along with predictable rulings will succeed. There is likely to be an increase in firms hiring non-lawyer professionals to be part of a team that can deliver clients with business and legal solutions, using this as a point of differentiation. Meanwhile, fields of law traditionally covered by small firms or individual lawyers in many jurisdictions, such as family law, inheritance and criminal law will become the province of medium and larger firms, and non-corporate areas of practice will become increasingly relevant to service high net worth individuals and managers.

Bill Taylor, President of Globalaw, and partner at San Francisco-based firm Hanson Bridgett commented: “As Globalaw marks its twentieth year, it is clear that the increasing internationalisation of business makes legal networks more relevant now than ever before. It is striking how our members firms – whether in Paris, Panama or Perth – foresee the next twenty years. We believe that we are well-placed to capitalise on the predicted trends, as we place a premium on building and maintaining close personal relationships between the lawyers in our network, mirroring the marked and renewed focus on the professional relationship service culture which will help our members relate to clients and to prosper from the trends that they have identified.”

Michael Hatchwell, Immediate Past President and a lawyer at one of the five founder member firms still part of the network, comments:

“It has been fascinating to be part of the key transformational trends that have so impacted the legal profession over the past 20 years and moreover to have witnessed how those trends have affected the legal profession globally.”

Globalaw is an international network of 112 independent law firms operating in over 88 countries worldwide released the predictions  to coincide with the organisation’s twentieth anniversary year.

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