ALSP UnitedLex has raised the stakes further in the ongoing battle for market share in the legal ops and tech consulting space, after hiring in five senior staff, all with previous Big Four experience, and especially from PwC.
The hires are in some cases very high level, such as David Clarke, who previously served as PwC’s Digital Strategy and Innovation Leader, and Mike Duggan who was a partner at Deloitte for 13 years, and prior to that was at leading tech consulting group, Accenture.
In short, this is a statement of serious intent. One could see this in many ways as UnitedLex asking itself what it wants to be, and the answer coming back: we want to be like the Big Four, i.e. not just an ALSP that performs process work, we want all the juicy digital and legal ops consulting work too. And so….well….they have done the only logical thing: they’ve hired a lot of senior people with Big Four backgrounds.
The digitisation / legal ops consulting side of things has really come to the forefront in other ways, for example, their homepage doesn’t look like one that belongs to an ALSP that has hundreds of people working just on process matters (see main pic above). Instead it’s a cool image with the phrase: ‘Legal Transformation for the Digital Age’ in large letters. Below that it states: ‘Digital Transformation is the catalyst for creating expansive value within the legal function and across the wider enterprise. The Art of the Possible is now.’
And you know what this kind of marketing reminds this site of…….? Yep, the Big Four.
The hires are:
- David Clarke joins UnitedLex as Executive Vice President and Chief Experience and Marketing Officer. Clarke previously served as PwC’s Digital Strategy and Innovation Leader, leading the go-to-market, demand generation, brand, strategy, experience, and marketing functions for the firm’s products and services.
- Mike Duggan joins UnitedLex as Executive Vice President, Clients and Markets. In this role, Duggan will draw from his 25-year background in technology enabled transformation and professional services to drive value for UnitedLex’s customers. Most recently he was a partner at Deloitte, prior to that he was at Accenture.
- Audra Nichols joins UnitedLex as Senior Vice President, Digital Solutions and Methods, with a focus on defining and packaging UnitedLex services to realize optimal client impact on workflow, culture, talent, and technology. Their experience includes growing PwC’s multi-disciplinary consulting services portfolio.
- Bhavesh Patel joins UnitedLex as Senior Vice President, Transformation. He will focus on designing and delivering the largest, most complex transformations using a digital first, customer centric approach. Prior to UnitedLex, Patel spent 20 years as a management and technology consultant at Accenture, PwC, and most recently at West Monroe Partners.
- Christian Schmitt joins UnitedLex as Executive Vice President, Clients and Markets Leader, EMEA. Schmitt brings a 20-plus year background in delivering large and complex programs solving his clients most important problems. For the last decade, he held global roles as head of Wealth Management and Senior Client Partner for PwC.
And in terms of what UnitedLex offers these days, take a look at this from their website about its consulting offering to corporate legal teams:
Align the law department with overarching business objectives. Align the law department with overarching business objectives. Weigh internal and external influences and balance aspiration with reality to create a tangible view of the present and future.
- Strategy articulation
- Voice of the customer survey
- Work prioritisation
- Transformation planning’
Business alignment…? Strategy articulation….? These come right out of the management consultancy playbook. This is not: ‘Hey, we can do your process work faster and cheaper.’ This is: ‘Hey, we are offering super-high level advice.’
So, what does this all mean? One could say it’s aiming at becoming a more focused type of Big Four firm, with the staff and expertise to do large scale process work, but also building high-level consulting relationships with corporates. But clearly without all the tax and audit and other non-legal-related areas.
We’ll have to come up with a new term, as just ‘ALSP’ doesn’t really cut it anymore, and we can’t add them to the Big Four group as they don’t do accounting – and still are way smaller than any of those four giants in terms of total size. This site was going to say: Big Four Mini Me, but that seems unfair. Perhaps a better term would be: ‘Consultancy-Led ALSP’? Or maybe ‘Elite ALSP’?
It also raises the game for others playing in this space, such as law firms that have built their own consulting / legal ops groups. And it adds competitive pressure to the business plans of organisations already heavily focused on legal ops consulting, of which there are a growing number.
One last point is: why now? Why the big push? The answer is that the larger clients of the world are at last really starting to rethink how they do things. It’s not just talk any longer, at least among enough of the Fortune 500 and beyond to sustain a much larger tech consulting / legal ops consulting market.
The question is: how many consulting businesses in this market space can this demand sustain, even if it’s growing now?
Last word goes to UnitedLex CEO, Dan Reed, who said: ‘UnitedLex is deeply committed to delivering operational excellence to our clients and the appointment of this group of exceptional professionals underscores our dedication to this mission.’
‘At UnitedLex, we are leading the way for digital transformation in legal, one of the last industries to fully embrace digital solutions. By harnessing the knowledge of these digital transformation experts, UnitedLex can meet the tremendous demand to bring legal into the digital age.’
So, there you go.
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