After government, the professional services industry is the largest employer in the District, with almost 125,000 jobs. While the professional services sector encompasses a diverse range of specialties, the four largest subsectors of this sector in the District by employment are administrative and support services (47,430 jobs), consulting and research (31,474), legal services (28,989), and accounting, architecture & design (9,164). Proximity to major clients, quality of life in the District, prestige of a DC office for law firms, and the presence of a highly-educated population that forms a strong talent pool for recruitment, all contribute to the competitiveness of DC in professional services. The District has competitive advantages in public sector management and technology consulting, federal government consulting, and legal services (DC has nine times more lawyers per capita than New York City, for example).1
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Major Trends Affecting the Sector and Implications
Technology transforming professional services delivery and demand
Trends: The use of technologies such as data analytics, workflow automation, and artificial intelligence are transforming professional services. For example, the Big Four accounting firms are using technology to analyze entire financial records instead of sampling, while law firms are starting to employ efficient, accurate computer-assisted document review processes. On the demand side, firms’ clients are increasingly demanding mobile and digital professional services.
Implications: These changes have implications on staffing models that have traditionally been based on apprenticeship and manual work, requiring professional services firms to be more technology-focused and to deliver services with fewer people. Many law and consulting firms have already undertaken a technology-enabled shift of non-client-facing staff and back office functions out of DC to lower-cost areas. However, the rise of technology also creates opportunities for the District to grow technology firms that transform or augment the professional services space.
Growing global demand for professional services
Trends: The international demand for professional services is growing. In particular, there has been growing demand for public sector management consulting and infrastructure project management from Middle Eastern countries seeking to undergo economic transformations. For example, the Saudi Arabia consulting market is growing by 15% to $1.3 billion in 2015.2
Implications: DC is well-placed to grow its exports of professional services, drawing on the plethora of expertise among its professional services firms and other organizations in skills such as public sector management, international law and arbitration, and management of large infrastructure projects. To do so, the District could build up trade relationships and promote DC’s professional service exports internationally.
- Georgetown Law School. “Washington DC Legal Market.” Accessed 19 December 2016. <https://www.law.georgetown.edu/careers/career-planning/Washington-DC-Legal-Market.cfm>.
- The Source Global Research. The GCC Consulting Market in 2016. Accessed 22 December 2016. < http://www.sourceglobalresearch.com/report/download/1288/extract/0/The-GCC-Consulting-Market>