More than 60% of in-house lawyers think global law firms are providing below-par client service as a result of issues such as poor collaboration and inter-office rivalries, according to new research by Legal Week Intelligence on behalf of Interlaw.

The survey – which aimed to examine how the legal sector is adjusting to meet the needs of ever-demanding global clients – canvassed the opinions of more than 100 senior in-house lawyers, with many citing inter-firm political wrangling as having a detrimental impact on the service they received.

Sixty-two percent of clients responding to the survey said office rivalries at global law firms were having an impact on service quality, with client relationships often blocked to preserve income for one particular office of an international firm.

Similarly, 62% of respondents cited a lack of joined-up working at global firms, while even more (77%) said poor communication between teams at firms with multiple offices around the world was impacting on the quality of service on offer.

Global law firms have become increasingly bogged down by internal operational pressures to the detriment of client service

Fifty percent of respondents to the survey agreed with the statement that global law firms “have become increasingly bogged down by internal operational pressures, to the detriment of client service”, as they have grown to become large corporate entities.

One survey respondent, US tech company Tangoe general counsel Tom Flynn, cited an example of a disappointing experience when instructing a global firm: “On one occasion when I ventured out and used a large international law firm for advice on data privacy, I had the worst experience I have had since using outside counsel. They basically gave me a collection of comments on things from all of their local offices – there was no practical advice, I had a junior person, and it cost me a fortune.”

Almost half of in-house lawyers surveyed said they already use or intend to use a network of independent law firms, with 23% describing their experience of using networks as ‘excellent’ and another 54% saying it was ‘good’.

The research also gathered opinions from 55 independent law firms across 41 countries. Around two thirds of those said they are a member of an external network or are in the process of joining one, with greater control over strategy cited as the key benefit of independence.

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