Bloomberg Law 2013 statistics showed that 75% of all global legal service money was spent in the US, mostly on litigation. That amounted to a little more than $7billion. The demand for global legal representation is still rising but the focus of the litigation is changing.
Two years ago, much of the global litigation pertained to compliance with the business laws in other countries. Issues such as whether debts owed to a corporation could be counted as assets as opposed to offering a tax credit differ among countries, and international corporations dispute these differences regularly. Today, however, the trend is toward litigation over patent infringement to curb competition. EBay, for instance is in litigation in the European Court of Justice and the English Court of Appeals over infringement of their trademark by European companies. Amazon, too, is battling in European courts because of infringement on its Cloud Drive Service.
The thing to notice is that this litigation is taking place in Europe and not in the United States. Since 2013, the balance of litigation money power has shifted away from America to Europe. China is another bidder in the legal representation auction. Since 2008, when it introduced laws on competition, it has seen an uptick in cases brought before the courts, especially in IP.
How are US based law firms to compete? The answer is that they must increase their global presences. Companies like DLA Piper under its COO Robert Bratt, have a significant number of lawyers based in several global locations. In other words, they follow the money, and the money seems not to be in the US. In 2013, according to an article in scoop.jdsupra.com, DLA Piper ranked among the top five Us Law firms. One of the things Piper did to keep this ranking was to invest profits into attracting desirable clients and also into attracting and retaining talented lawyers.
Global law firms not only assist clients in litigation, they advise them of the best ways to avoid it. DLA Piper advises not only global corporations but countries as well. That means the professional staff must have savvy in international law and in current political events. The global pulse is taken in issues such as oil production and human rights violation tensions. Terrorism (more properly anti-terrorism) legislation and policies also affect the flow of commerce, increasing litigation issues. The legal talent Piper has courted come with their own big business clients, swelling the firm’s list of represented corporations and high-profile individuals. It is not only one of the top five US law firms; it is one of the highest grossing.
The increase in digital innovation patent infringement opens up a new “can of worms” for global law offices. Not only must they deal with the intricacies of proving patent on intangible ideas, they must be able to safeguard the transmission of digital data throughout their own systems to ensure client privacy and security. Cyber security is emerging as a huge component of global legal representation.
One sure thing in the future of global law firms is more competition for clients. The trend is toward mega-mergers of firms, allowing them to spread out over international “waters” and reach toward global clients. Still, there are so many factors to success, law firms new to global economies may not swim for long.