AILFN (the Association of International Law Firm Networks) is a new organisation that represents the common interests of global and regional law firm networks. AILFN has four purposes: (1) enhance the position and recognition of all networks in the legal market; (2) establish common principles to maintain standard of quality; (3) provide a forum for networks to exchange information; and (4) negotiate agreements with vendors that can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of networks.
AILFN was launched in October 2015, ahead of the IBA International Bar Association congress in Vienna.
Stephen McGarry, founder of Lex Mundi, World Service Group WSG and www.hg.org, has established the new voice of the profession, together with some of the world’s leading law firm networks.
Today, the media is fixated on three models for global legal businesses: big law firms, Swiss Vereins and the Big Four. Structurally, each of these models is inherently ineffective and inefficient for global legal practice. The most efficient and effective model is a law firm network composed of independent firms. Unfortunately, these are not yet recognised as the best strategic option in the global market, undermining both their credibility among their members and their value to clients.
This is because of a lack of awareness of the following:
Stand-alone firms can provide the most cost-effective service as each is managed independently within its respective market.
The 60 largest law firm networks have been established for average time of 20 years. This provides an extraordinarily stable group of firms who have strong relationships with each other.
Network members have global and local coverage while the other models are limited to large cities. Members of the largest 50 networks employ almost 300,000 lawyers within 7,000 independent law firms.
Network members are involved in a significant amount of global transactions.
They have a cumulative income from their clients of more than USD 50 billion, which represents more than 10% of the worldwide commercial legal market.
The networks are the only organisations to cover virtually all the world’s commercial centres. The largest networks have members with more than 600 offices. Only a handful of law firms have more than 50 offices.
Regional networks provide in depth resources in their respective national and local markets.
The issue is that no individual network can change the perception that law firm networks are an unimportant part of the global legal sector. This is because more than 95% of network’s activities are focused internally on members building relationships to benefit clients, as opposed to law firms and the Big Four where 95% of marketing is focused on external brand recognition.
The AILFN can change this misconception by focusing on marketing the general benefits of networks to the legal profession as well as to potential clients seeking the most cost-effective and efficient representation.
Michael Reiss von Filski, Global CEO of GGI, was elected Chairman of AILFN’s Board of Directors at their recent London meeting. The board additionally elected Stephen McGarry to the position of AILFN President. Steve founded and previously served as President of Lex Mundi and World Services Group (WSG), the world’s two largest law firm networks. The Board of Directors also elected Adam Cooke, Executive Director of Multilaw, to the position of Chair; Tim Wilson, Chief Executive of MSI Global Alliance, to the position of Treasurer; Lindsay Griffiths, Director of Global Relationship Management at International Lawyers Network to the position of Secretary; and Wendy Horn, Executive Director of The International Alliance of Law Firms, was elected to the board.