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Client attitudes towards using the Big 4 for legal services are undergoing a sea change. Our latest research reveals 29.6% of top legal decision makers are open to hiring Big 4 lawyers and law firms. This is up from less than 5% just 5 years ago. You can’t develop a market if clients don’t want to hire you — and this big barrier to entry is coming down.

We found 4 drivers behind this trend — and the first one will be pervasive while accelerating client openness to Big 4 law. These are:

1. Torrid turnover in the top legal decision maker role

The number of companies with new top legal decision makers is at a record high. They are most open to hiring new law firms in the first 2 years of tenure. These career moves are unleashing more unconventional options to solving legal problems. Fully 82% of top legal decision makers in their role 2 years or less are open to Big 4 law.

2. Global commerce

US-based counsel are coming face-to-face with Big 4 attorneys as they enter into agreements to do business all over the world. More of these US-based counsels are impressed than not. Each positive experience opens one more door for future legal business with the Big 4.

3. The rise of global supply chains

The Big 4 are the clear leaders in supply chain consulting. They are meeting US-based legal departments as they work through client agreements and deal with international trade regulations. Even with some supply chains moving back to the US — the Big 4 made their mark.

More GCs than ever have seen or dealt with the Big 4 in other parts of the world — and decided they are up to the task.

4. Streamlining legal operations

The pandemic convinced clients’ legal departments of the need to streamline and formalize work processes — and the Big 4 are aggressively stepping up to provide the consulting services to help while selling their attorneys.

In addition, top legal decision makers talk about a few other benefits Big 4 legal services might bring. These include:

  • More agile in cross-border work
  • Integrated law, accounting, and finance issues
  • Increased institutional knowledge
  • Larger teams
  • Perceived deeper industry insight

No client is ready for the Big 4 to take on big litigation or a transaction. Clients see the Big 4 best suited for logistically complex work, work requiring deep regulatory knowledge, and the legal issues embedded in running operations.

The important insight is the fundamental change in attitude towards using the Big 4 at all. This is the most difficult market barrier to overcome. A substantial part of the market is now open to using the Big 4. And, the newest GCs are more open than all others. It can’t hurt to step up the effort — client teams, client service, and institutional client knowledge to help stave off the Big 4 before they get more traction.

The best law firm performances prove this makes for good business with or without the Big 4.


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