Had Greek philosopher Heraclitus been with us during the last century or two, then he would not have enjoyed mooching around the wood panelled corridors of legal power nor propping up the 19th green at The Law Society Golf Club. For within these hallowed legal environments his most enduring quote … “the only constant is change” … has been treated with disdain.
Because the one universe that seemed indifferent to this truth has been planet legal but, times my friend, they sure are changing. A transformational storm is brewing above the heads of our traditional legal system and with it, a complete reinvention of how we use, and they deliver, legal services. So what’s going on and why should you care? Well nothing less than a revolution is taking place with tremendous benefits for the market and specifically, for the business owner and manager.
So let’s reflect upon the current relationship between your average SME and the legal services community. Whilst many fine lawyers exist, let’s face it, all is far from healthy, and the widespread unhappiness expressed by SMEs towards the quality of the legal services available, certainly point out how major improvements are needed in this field. According to a LSB Survey from 2013: “7 in 8 SMEs are deeply unhappy with legal services”
This indicates a huge disconnection between the services being delivered and the value being perceived. The complaints are traditional and predictable;
- Expensive & uncontrolled costs
- Poor customer service & communication
- Inefficiencies & over lawyering
- Lack of transparency and accountability
The mentioned research also highlights the huge latent market that’s been overlooked, or untapped by the traditional market, but not by the legal innovator and investor: “52% of SMEs do not seek external help with legal problems and instead just muddle through”
Not only have lawyers been failing to deliver what’s perceived as an adequate or value driven service to the SME market, but they’re failing to tap into the majority of business owners who, for the reasons stated above, ignore completely the option of instructing a lawyer and therefore, run the risk of making business critical mistakes without the appropriate guidance.
And so, like most inefficient market spaces, when the playing field is levelled out, monopolies removed and external ideas and investment encouraged, change follows fairly swift thereafter. Welcome to the reinvention of law. A world where innovators and investors are creating new business models and expectations about how you, SME and everyone else can access and pay for legal advice.Such is the pace of change and opportunity that investors are now showing serious interest in a sector that was previously viewed as very unsexy.
“$458m was invested in US legal services start ups in 2013”
“Legal services platform Lawbite secures £172,000 in over subscribed Crowdcube pitch”
The pin stripe suits, wood panelled meeting rooms and opaque deference are being thankfully swept away for a brave and existing new legal world of (hold your breath) …… choice, competition, transparency and access.
This is not easy to absorb for some firms, particularly those burdened with inefficient business models … well, efficient for the equity partners but less so to clients or subordinates.
There is much legal and academic debate about the developing contrast between the old business models (referred to as ‘Big Law’) and new, often private equity backed, kids on the block (‘New Law’) but that’s for another article.
If you are interested in finding out more about some of the changes taking place (and in the pipeline) then you can visit www.reinventlaw.com – a site with some great ideas, articles and events that are helping to explore and publicise the change taking place.
The site has a reinvent laboratory with a clear mission statement:
“We believe lawyers can change the world; but to change the world we must first change ourselves. It is time to reinvent. The market for legal services is undergoing serious transition; presenting both possibility and peril. We believe four pillars of innovation will save our industry … [Law + Tech + Design + Delivery]”
The journey to reinvent law will be fun, let’s see where it takes us!
[NB: I intend using future articles to explore the ideas, people, companies and lawyers driving this change. A previously moribund commercial environment is exploding into life, and it’s all rather exciting. Feel free to contact me with your own experiences and thoughts.]
Andrew Weaver is an entrepreneur, investor, mentor, blogger and Cranfield MBA. Brought up in Cornwall he has since worked in cities around the world including Melbourne, Cairo, Bilbao and London. He has extensive knowledge and experience within the SME sector across a wide range of sectors including professional services, property, distribution, leisure. He was also once a barristers clerk and has incorporated this wide range of experience into the recent launch of LawyerFair, a free to use legal comparison service aimed at increasing choice and competition in legal services. He is particularly interested in how technology and the internet will drive better value from professional services. With a Spanish partner and young daughter, he splits his time between London and Bilbao – including regular trips to San Mames and the home of Athletic Bilbao.