Is 2021 the year we should we drop the “Alternative” from ALSPs?
ALSP or Alternative Legal Service Providers make the difference between law firms trying to challenge the traditional model
What is an ALSP?
Alternative Legal Service Providers were conceived to challenge the traditional model. In the “early days” the description was used to cover companies set up to provide legal outsourcing. Lawyers on Demand and Axiom were – and still are - two of the big names in this space. They have matured and now offer more solutions than they did when they were conceived.
In their latest report, “Alternative Legal Service Providers: 2021 Report – Strong Growth, Mainstream Acceptance, and No Longer an “Alternative,” Thomson Reuters describe ALSPs by saying: “they help provide clients – both corporate counsel and law firms – with specialized expertise, enable them to work more cost-efficiently, and are transforming the way that we think about the practice of the law”. This is more than just legal outsourcing.
Thomson Reuters identify in their report that the industry has reached a point of maturity. They point to numbers. Another nod to the industry’s maturity? The bastion of traditional law, Chambers & Partners, now produces a guide on Alternative Legal Service Providers. For those eschewing the traditional, this will send shivers down their spines.
Should we be describing something that is mainstream as “alternative”?
What is the problem with maturity?
In a word, differentiation. Thomson Reuters include the Big Four in their report on ALSPs. Chambers focuses on “four core areas of the sector”: flexible legal staffing, contract lifecycle management, litigation services and legal process outsourcing units. The big names that you would expect to see appear – Elevate, Peerpoint, FLEX – as well as the Big Four and the “Alternatives” offered by “Big Law”: GravityStack by Reed Smith; and BCLP Cubed, for example.
Where does this leave the customer? Confused.
ALSPs have morphed into a catch all that covers anything that challenges the traditional model, and now, traditional firms, not wanting to be outdone, have in turn now started to themselves over “alternative legal services”. The job that the phrase/definition had to do in “the early days” has evolved to the point of being redundant.
How do ALSP achieve differentiation?
There are lots of firms that are doing things differently, for a variety of reasons, each exciting in its own right and all of them far removed from the law firms of old. There are Legal Design firms who are different because of the way they think about legal problems. There are firms who use technology to provide legal solutions. There are firms which are focusing on the people providing the service – humanising the law. Then there are firms who are providing holistic solutions that go beyond the legal.
These all sit alongside firms doing the work that Chambers drew out as “core” to the industry, as well as firms at the other end of the spectrum that are still emerging.
The advantage to dropping “alternative”?
Rather than focus on what you are not you can focus on what you are. And what a lot of today’s legal services providers are is special. That’s what the client wants to see and needs to understand.
By using an outdated definition for the providers of a myriad of solutions for a wealth of different clients, are we not doing them all a disserve?
This article is adapted from one that appeared on Client Talk’s blog. To read the full article click here.