The edge effect of the legal ecosystem

In ecology, the term “edge effect” refers to the boundary of two or more habitats. At the edge of two intersecting habitats scientists find greater diversity of life, including unique species that are specially adapted to the conditions of the zone where the two habitats come together.

Today’s corporate law departments and law firms are in many ways like those adjacent ecological habitats: in their respective legal habitats, each faces different market pressures and has different resulting needs. As in ecology, in the zone where they come together there is an opportunity to evolve new species of service delivery models for the legal ecosystem. 

Macro trends in the legal ecosystem

Law departments have evolved rapidly over the past decade because of financial and other market pressures in addition to internal pressures. They are now focused on the next stage of their evolutionary journey – to climb higher on the value chain in their role as advisors to the business. Law firms, in turn, face increasing demands from their law department clients to change how they deliver their services and provide value. For legal organizations that are willing to adapt, there is a clear opportunity to evolve in a way that will differentiate them from the competition. 

The law department habitat. Over the past 10 years, law departments have progressed, having experienced a financial crisis and the resulting increased (and now perennial) pressure to “do more with less.” More recently, their evolution has become more nuanced, focusing not only on cost but also on delivering value and more directly meeting the needs of the organization as a whole. This has resulted in the chief legal officer and corporate counsel becoming more involved in influencing business strategy in today’s heavily regulated and complex global market. New issues that today’s general counsel deal with include cybersecurity and data privacy, a web of sometimes conflicting international regulations, global supply chain concerns and much more. 

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