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legal services international growth

Friday 4 January, 2008

Tribune staff reporter, wrote Emerging markets fuel firms’ global growth
1 of my roommates senior year @ Michigan went on to law school @ UChicago with the ambition of focusing on international law. He ended up bagging that & becoming a litigator with Jenner & Block. 1 of the reasons for that was simply jurisdiction, i.e. what he could do internationally from here in the States. I think that is somewhat analagous to marketers in that it’s 1 profession that is very locally oriented, for lawyers because laws are enforced locally, & for marketers because products/services are marketed locally for the most part.

I find it interesting that law firms are very much mirroring their clients, in that they are aggressively expanding abroad & using M&A to do it. For example, a few of the largest law firms in Chicago are not that big internationally, & a few of the biggest US-based law firms are in Chicago with smaller offices than the biggest local firms. Chicago is a huge professional services hub & it’s interesting to see this dichotomy.
This also illustrates the classic “go local” approach. It’s very difficult for even very well-educated attorneys to practice in places in which they don’t know the local details of the law. Therefore, it makes more sense to hire or acquire locals rather than training ex-pats or others to parachute in to do the work.

It’s also interesting to note that they are simply following the money, i.e foreign direct investment, so in a sense they are simply following their customers, just like other businesses. I wonder if law firms will suffer from some of the other major pratfalls of international acquisitions, such as problems with integration, execution, etc. Since they are privately held, I doubt we’ll ever hear of any of those problems.

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