The Legal Startup
And when will technology-based legal startups arrive?
No, I’m not talking about LegalTech making software for law firms, not even of the differentiation of an Alternative Business Structure and not even about the incorporation of the many talents at the support departments
I’m talking about the new legal practice.
A legal project that is founded by lawyers, engineers, managers, scientists and experts with other skills, made from scratch like any other startup, using internal teams, nearshore and offshore resources that work remotely.
A project with agile methodologies natively implemented, whenever possible with continuous technological investigation and in which all departments and areas are based on technology and organization’s models completely disruptive to the current standards.
All of the departments will be created after a software base that ensures scalability without the need to increase the temporary allocation of human resources. Many of the non-legal functions won’t be considered as support teams but will be integrant parts of the departments and several will even be partners.
A contract does not go out to a client without going through the Legal Designer and being approved by the Client Experience Manager (a kind of UX Designer). Tender Specifications co-prepared by a specialist in the respective area and the Public Procurement Lawyer. Architects and Lawyers, both partners in a firm specialized in real estate, construction and urbanism.
Criminal and litigation departments with data scientists and forensic investigators involved at all moments of the processes, indicating to the Lawyer the best strategy, which should then begin its legal improvement. Clinical psychologists co-lead the department of Family and Inheritance Law with their specialist lawyers.
More important than the examples, is the mindset.
Focus on the Client. The startup law firms will structure their activity around the clients. They will not come to ask for help nor are they expecting to ask for it, the problems will have to be anticipated through immersion in the client, targeting the creation of a feeling of a permanent legal safety using data technology and artificial intelligence. The need for constant innovation to maintain and improve productivity levels will force startups to have the equivalent of one Product Manager per department.
The Client will no longer accept to pay for the extensive steps in the legal practice that result from human limitations, or at least without a credible explanation.
“Impossible! It takes too long; you have to do this and that!” Some will say. Maybe now it is but tomorrow it doesn’t have to be that way.
No startup will start operating without document automation, without immediate answers to your legal doubts and will want to use Artificial Intelligence to create the entire process strategy, analysing in seconds all existing case-law and legal writings. The lawyer will only have to check for errors and confirm it. If there are errors in the strategy, the AI development teams will be involved and make decisions alongside with the lawyer.
The startup will use Marketing funnels in order to segment the client, so when the end of the process is reached, the system will tell you which is the best lawyer for that situation and will transmit to the lawyer what are the most relevant points of the situation reported by the client. Collaboration and sharing at the startup will be total and omnidirectional. Lawyer-client trust will remain to be important but only crucial in more serious situations.
This simplification of everything will speed up legal practice leaving traditional law firms behind. If UBER appeared in the conservative taxi sector and Revolut appeared in the powerful banking sector, why can’t the same happen in law? It will and it’s already happening.
Prices will drop a lot, but startups will process a huge amount of work almost in real-time. The business numbers will not fall, they will benefit from the scale and greater access to their services, the financial value obtained by the process is less, since the optimization will reduce the time spent on each one, but they can have more customers for the same effort. Just look at the stratospheric numbers of some software to realize that, on a very small business scale, they have already surpassed the overwhelming majority of traditional firms … and are not even competitors yet! Imagine when lawyers enter into this revolution.
The courts? The Civil courts, at least, will be online with processes divided by virtual rooms with judges jumping between rooms very quickly, with access to the entire digitized and structured process with decision support tools such as analytics and other tools.
Criminal trials will also have a strong digitalization, but slower. The lawyer will not need to leave the office, hours earlier to go to court, he does not need to lose the whole day with a single situation.
If the reader works in a large law firm, probably the biggest impact will not be technological, but of agility and mindset. Older Lawyers will, of course, tend to try to stop the change but you can always go out and join the wave.
If your law firm is small or if you are in individual practice, who knows, you can merge with a technology company and become the startup described in this text. One aspect I have already looked into, many young lawyers are not apprehensive, on the contrary, they are extremely motivated for this revolution.
It’s time to evolve.