Developments in Legal Service Integration

From The Practice May/June 2021
Highlighting key stories about the profession you may have missed

In “Vertically Integrated Legal Service,” Richard Susskind and Neville Eisenberg argue that vertical integration in law firms has the potential to transform the legal services market. While we have yet to see such integration develop wholesale, recent developments do suggest that law firms and other legal service providers are attempting to integrate new services.

In late May 2021, Baker McKenzie announced an exclusive three-year contract with SparkBeyond, an “AI-powered problem solving platform,” to enhance the law firm’s AI capabilities and service offerings. Back in October 2020, Baker McKenzie had announced they were collaborating with SparkBeyond through the former’s innovation program, Reinvent. Not only does the 2021 multiyear contract indicate that Baker McKenzie is investing more in technology-enabled solutions like AI and data analytics but the firm is also reportedly building a new team to carry out this enhanced function for the express purpose of client service. Given that SparkBeyond has already helped power the initial rollout of the law firm’s innovation arm, its extended partnership with Baker McKenzie demonstrates another possible form of integration in the legal profession—a potent partnership between elite law firm and technology platform.

Recent developments do suggest that law firms and other legal service providers are attempting to integrate new services.

Meanwhile, another potentially potent partnership formed in May 2021 when Global 100 firm Ogletree Deakins announced a collaboration with KPMG’s German arm. While the organizations remain formally separate, the partnership will reportedly provide clients on both sides with “tech-enabled immigration and labor and employment coverage around the world, particularly leveraging KPMG’s Global Mobility Services networks as well as Ogletree’s U.S. and global labor and employment expertise.” Thomas Wolf, head of global immigration services for KPMG, noted in a press release that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, large complex organizations need to be nimble across their global presence with ongoing functions like compliance. “Ogletree Deakins’ labor, employment and immigration experience in the United States is a perfect fit for KPMG’s organization of firms as we expand our global legal services practice and our global mobility services offerings around the world,” he says. “We are excited to join forces with Ogletree Deakins to offer clients even deeper global coverage for their pressing employment and immigration legal matters.”

While these two partnerships differ in subject area, both represent possible new integrations as law firms and other legal service providers grow their service offerings. The question going forward will be: is collaboration and partnership enough, or is vertical integration next?