Law Firms Turn to Technology as a Way Forward

Ava Chisling
April 18, 2017

The only people who want to spend $1,000 an hour for legal services are those who are famous and stuck in prison. The rest of us want reasonable rates right now — and we are seeing more law firms turn to technology for help.

Much has been written about big law firms and their business models, and not much of it has been optimistic. With globalization, automation, and pure common sense, clients today expect more for their money. They are increasingly ordering basic legal services online, like wills and leases, and the truth is, people, don’t really want to spend $1,000 an hour for legal advice unless they are famous and stuck in prison.

These days, there is a demand for more reasonable prices for services and not only in law.

Other industries, like advertising, have also had their bread and butter services diluted both by do-it-yourself websites and the Big Boys. Facebook’s Creative Shop is a collection of 150 creative strategists worldwide, already working with major brands like Budweiser, Toyota and Sprint, according to Upwork lets you hire freelancers from anywhere on the planet for next to nothing. And you can find websites devoted to creating logos and webpages for free.

So businesses like law firms and ad agencies are turning to technology as a way out, or perhaps more precisely put, a way forward. On March 28, Allen & Overy (A&O) announced the opening of Fuse, a new innovation space where “tech companies, A&O lawyers, technologists and their clients will collaborate to explore, develop and test legal, regulatory and deal-related solutions.” Other ventures into the law-tech mashup include Dentons and Nextlaw Labs, and LexisNexis, the legal publishing and software giant, has chosen TagDox(along with four other companies) to join its Accelerator program for legal tech start-ups. And in the ad-tech corner are major players like WPP and Publicis Groupe.

“Tech labs make sense as law firms recognize that the partner structure of firms can sometimes deter innovation and future profits for short-term gain.”

What is this trend all about?

ROSS CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Arruda, weighs in. “In 2008, everything changed. Clients are now in control and want efficient legal service from their firms. Tech labs make sense as law firms recognize that the partner structure of firms can sometimes deter innovation and future profits for short-term gain. We are in for some exciting times as legal technology continues to become an essential element of legal operations.”

What is the end game here? To attract new clients? New talent? Both? Neither? Arruda says it’s mostly all of the above. “The end game is likely one quarter to attract more talent, one quarter to attract more clients (including the companies these tech labs support), one-quarter marketing and the final quarter is a legitimate attempt to enter into the new realities of 21st-century business, tech and all.”

But good things can come out of these merging of the minds. Says Arruda: “If done right, these tech labs should be places where ideas become products which are piloted by the firms who established the tech labs,” says Arruda. “Oftentimes legal tech companies complain that it’s hard to get early adopters because lawyers are usually not open to working with a company’s MVP and providing feedback. Tech labs could be an effective counter to this hurdle.”

How does a company like ROSS fit into this trend?

“At this point ROSS doesn’t really ‘fit’ when it comes to tech labs as we’ve passed that stage as a company,” says Arruda. “We were involved with NextLaw Labs via Dentons which was great, but things change as you scale. I think this trend certainly helps ROSS as a rising tide lifts all boats. In many ways, I feel that the success of ROSS has inspired a bunch of new companies, as well as new law firm tech labs after seeing the successes coming out of NextLaw Labs, and that’s a great thing.”

Ava Chisling

Ava is an award-winning lawyer and editor who counsels creative types, writes about pop culture/tech+law and sometimes creates ad campaigns. She is Quebec counsel for Momentum Law.