Alternative Legal Service Provider Use by Corporations and Law Firms Exceeding Projections, Creating a $10 Billion Market
Use of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) is growing faster than projected and is now more than a $10 billion market as ALSPs rapidly expand their footprint. Large law firms are now more likely to be users of ALSPs than corporate legal departments for many key uses. Those are among the findings in “Alternative Legal Service Providers 2019: Fast Growth, Expanding Use and Increasing Opportunity,” a new comprehensive report from Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, The Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and Acritas.
Among the key findings of the study:
ALSP Market Has Grown to More Than $10B
ALSPs make up a $10.7 billion market for legal services, compared with $8.4 billion as found in the previous survey two years ago, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 12.9 percent. Looking ahead, ALSPs are projecting a growth rate of 25 percent over the next few years.
Corporate Use Growing Faster Than Predicted
Corporate use of ALSPs is growing at a faster rate than predicted in the survey two years ago, particularly for services such as litigation and investigative support, document review, and even specialized and high-value services such as legal research. In some cases, growth has already met or eclipsed five-year projected growth rates in only two years.
In all, 74 percent of corporations surveyed are now using ALSPs in at least one service category, compared with 60 percent in the survey two years ago. Corporations are using ALSPs both directly and indirectly through outside law firms, with an increasing number of corporations reporting internal pressures to use ALSPs to reduce legal expenditures.
Nine in Ten Large Law Firms Now Using ALSPs
Use of ALSPs is now commonplace among law firms at all levels, which are both partnering with ALSPs and developing in-house ALSP affiliates. Eighty-seven percent of large law firms surveyed say they are using ALSPs in at least one service category. Eighty-one percent of midsize firms and 57 percent of small firms are doing the same.
The most common uses of ALSPs for law firms are e-discovery, litigation and investigation support, and legal research.
More than half of law firms surveyed say that ALSPs can help them expand and scale their business, differentiate their services, and retain client relationships.
Big Four Increasingly Competing With Law Firms
As use of ALSPs grows, law firms are increasingly finding themselves competing with the Big Four consulting firms. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of large law firms say they have had a client use one of the Big Four for work that the law firm had expected to win.
Growth in UK & Canada Accelerating
ALSP use is also growing internationally. Use by law firms and corporations in the UK & Canada is growing, although lagging slightly behind the U.S.
“The 2019 report captures the expanding influence of ALSPs on the global legal ecosystem,” said Eric Laughlin, managing director of Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services. “It’s not surprising to see adoption of ALSPs by both legal departments and law firms growing at a pace that has exceeded expectations. Their combination of specialized expertise, unique delivery models and use of cutting-edge technologies is rapidly disrupting the space.”
“In a short period of time, ALSPs have evolved from a relatively unknown phenomenon into a fast-growing segment that is an integral part of the legal services industry,” said Mari Sako, professor of Management Studies, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, and one of the co-authors of the report. “ALSPs come in many different shapes and sizes, from independent LPOs to well-backed parts of industry behemoths. They are expanding the available range of services by combining talent and technology to deliver legal services in modes that best suit their clients’ needs.”
“The pace of change in the legal industry continues to accelerate, and alternative legal service providers are playing a large role in driving that change,” said James W. Jones, a senior fellow at the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and a co-author of the report. “ALSPs offer a variety of business models that can often provide new levels of speed, efficiency, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Not only are ALSPs here to stay, but their reach and usage will likely continue to expand rapidly — across applications, customer bases and geographies.”
Industry Study Extract
Five Separate Categories of Alternative Legal Service Providers (“ALSP”) include:
- The Big Four are the largest accounting and audit firms which derive a large amount of revenue from legal services.
- Captive LPOs are law firms’ wholly-owned captive legal services units, often located in lower-cost regions.
- Independent LPOs perform legal work on behalf of corporate legal departments and law firms, often via matter or project-based engagements.
- Managed Services Providers contract for all or part of the function of an in-house legal team, typically ongoing work.
- Contract and Staffing Services provide lawyers on a temporary basis to companies and law firms, ranging from entry-level document review to highly skilled specialists.
Examples of Key Players in these Categories include:
The Big Four
- Allen & Overy
- Clifford Chance
- Reed Smith
Managed Services Providers
- Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services
- United Lex
Contract Lawyers, In-Sourcing, and Staffing Services
- Halebury (Aquired by Elevate in January 2019)
- Special Counsel
- Update Legal
Estimated* Overall Market Revenue of Each Category of ALSP:
- Big Four: $1,200 Million
- Captive LPOs: $300 Million
- Independent LPOs: $7,400 Million
- Managed Services Providers: $700 Million
- Contract and Staffing Services: $1,100 Million
- An eDiscovery Market Size Mashup: 2018-2023 Worldwide Software and Services Overview
- Too Many Law Firms Are Still Fighting the Last War: “2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market”