A law firm network (law firm association or legal network) is a membership organization consisting of independent law firms. These networks are one type of professional services networks similar to networks found in the accounting profession. The common purpose is to expand the resources available to each member for providing services to their clients.
The best known primarily law firm networks are Lex Mundi, WSG - World Services Group (multidisciplinary), TerraLex, Meritas (law), The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc. (TRIAL.COM), the State Capital Group and Pacific Rim Advisory Council. The largest networks have more than 10,000 attorneys located in hundreds of offices worldwide.
The firms who are part of the networks may be formally or informally linked to one another depending upon the purpose of the network. There were two distinct and different reasons for networks developing in the legal profession. The first was internationalization which became globalization in the 1990s. Law firms simply needed international connections. The second was expansion of a number of large United States firms to become “national”. Smaller firms or firms with a niche practice required this same expertise in other states. The networks provided them this expertise.
"Law firm networks are here to stay, with more than 170 already in existence. However, networks in the legal profession do not have the same level of respect as is found in the field of accounting. One reason could be that the large New York and London firms were the first to proactively globalize. The networks were simply a reaction to this globalization.
Additionally, the large law firms have much larger marketing budgets than networks. Perhaps legal networks remain tarnished because they originated as clubs or even franchises. However, in the light of day, it is now possible to argue that many of the elite law firms are themselves no more than networks. The world is coming full circle.
U.S. national networks also developed in the 1980s. The first national network was ALFA which was a network focused primarily on insurance litigation. The second was the State Capital Law Firm Group which began as a national network of firms practicing in government affairs. To qualify for membership, the firms needed to have a former governor at the firms. Both of these networks became international, changing their names to State Capital Global Legal Network and to ALFA International.