Earlier this month Lucy Endel Bassli wrote an article entitled: “Big 4 Are Not a Threat. They are a Reality”.
In the post immediately preceding I described Ms. Bassli’s experience and credentials as former Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft and as founder of a new law firm and consultancy focused on innovation in the delivery of legal services. Her views depart from — and are better informed than — conventional wisdom.
Conventionally-minded business lawyers talk a lot about the “threat” that the Big 4 present to traditional law firms. By “threat” they mean future competition.
Ms. Bassli — based on firsthand experience buying and managing the work of law firms and other legal services providers — argues that the Big 4’s offerings for U.S. business are not confined to the future. They’re a present day reality.
What follows are the first 5 of 10 attributes of Big 4 accounting firms’ offerings in legal services that Ms. Bassli identified:
“1. Experienced Consultants — The Big 4 have extensive business and management consulting practices with arguably the best professionals in the field. They provide a perspective into legal services which will inherently be grounded in business and tend to offer solutions to problems that contemplate the end business goals. They are experts in all kinds of operations and will naturally focus on efficiency and practical application of theory. Even if I would not have known to ask for this perspective, the Big 4 will always provide it. That kind of experience is priceless for the legal experts buying these services, who may not know that they even need such operational insights.”
“2. Process Engineers — With an expertise in management consulting, these professionals will undoubtedly and inevitably identify process improvements. After all, managing is all about aligning resources and delivering outcomes, isn’t it? In legal, we desperately need to rethink our allocation of resources. Much of what the industry is going through today is about changing engagements with law firms, adding new professionals into our mix, and outsourcing certain legal work. As challenging as that is for legal professionals to consider and implement, it is very easy for management consultants. Similarly, the focus on outcomes is never lost on management consultants, yet is it often lost on lawyers. Too many lawyers think that the outcome is the production of the legal advice, in whatever format. Helping lawyers focus on outcomes is another priceless benefit the Big 4 bring to every engagement.”
“3. Project Managers — There is no more beautiful deliverable than a piece of work product delivered by a professional project manager. Beyond just the actual deliverable, all work and engagements run smoother with a project manager involved. People are kept on track, timelines are strict, and action items are carefully tracked. The Big 4 are very comfortable with engaging project managers and make it a common practice on many of their consulting engagements.”
“4. Established Trusted Relationships — The Big 4 know how to deal with big enterprises. They understand the complexities and (well, let’s call it what it is) the politics of working with a matrixed organization with unclear decision-making authority and undefined processes. Beyond just understanding corporate culture, the Big 4 already have deep relationships with most large US and global companies. They likely have very useful contacts within the organization that may prove quite helpful when trying to accomplish a controversial goal or execute on an unpopular plan. Often these ‘outsiders’ have contacts within the client organization at higher levels than those they are engaging with in the client company on any one particular project. Sometimes those connections help get projects over the finish line.”
“5. Proven Results — The demonstrated success in tax law services has set a foundation for expansion into legal services that is grounded in experience on very complicated legal principles. Surely, if the Big 4 can become experts in tax law, they can deliver just about any other legal service!”
In Part 4 I conclude this analysis of the Big 4’s legal offerings to U.S. businesses by enumerating the last 5 attributes of the Big 4 identified by Ms. Bassli in her article on the subject.