By Mary Juetten
Recently I started watching The Good Wife from the first season. The number of times that Lockhart & Gardner emphasized billable hours at the full-service law firm was staggering—but to be fair, it was 2009. However, just last month, an attorney asked on LinkedIn for examples of fixed fees as alternative fees. Another lawyer commented that straight up flat fees were hardly novel at this point.
Evolve Law, with 140+ members, fosters innovation in the law by creating opportunities to accelerate the adoption of technology. Since our launch in Sept. 2015, we have presented 46
events in Canada and the U.S.
On April 5th, the eve before CodeX’s Future Law, Evolve Law presented an event focused on alternative business models for legal that went well beyond fixed fees. We collaborated with Dentons’ NextLaw Labs in Palo Alto. (On April 4, we held our first Summit in New York City, which brought together innovators with investors and strategic investors to create growth and provide access to capital.
The Palo Alto event included two “Darwin Talks,” from David Curle, (Thomson Reuters) and Stafford Matthews (Dentons.) Darwin Talks are like Ignite or TED style talks— and are five-minute thought provoking presentations. Curle and Matthews discussed business models, including pricing and comparisons with other professional services, such as accounting and engineering. Panel moderator Maya Markovich of Nextlaw Labs referenced an interesting article on pricing (located here.) This continuum on pricing provided context for the panel discussions.
Curle’s talk, “#ItsHappening: Specialized Expertise, not Cost, is Driving the Growth,” distilled the findings from a recent Thomson Reuter study, “Alternative Legal Services Providers (ALSP)” (available here.) Curle summarized that more than 50 percent of law firms and corporations are using ALSP today and not just to cut costs but also to source specialized knowledge. This is an opportunity for all law firms.
Monica Zent spoke on pricing and value from her experience at ZentLaw, “The transaction is the price, the fee, the plan, or whatever the arrangement is, but that’s it,” she said. “Additional data that goes into how the work is performed isn’t divulged, and it’s never been an issue. Ultimately, if clients are receiving value, they’re receiving good service, good quality work at a value, they’re happy.”
Dan Lear, Industry Relations for Avvo, discussed his view on technology: “We need to figure out how to solve client problems in a seamless way. Clients don’t care what’s happening behind the curtain. They just want their problem solved. And I fundamentally think that technology must play a crucial role.”
I was also on the panel, advocating for more business acumen and training for lawyers; the opening of law firms to non-lawyer and non-partner ownership; and the tying of compensation for lawyers to business objective, not billable hours. (However, I did not suggest the death of recording hours—as those hours plus the costs of enabling technology, help attorneys to measure their firm profitability.)
We finished with “Eli Whitney and the Artificial Lawyer,” where Matthews eloquently argued that artificial intelligence will never completely replace humans. “Ultimately lawyers…are persons who willingly insert themselves into positions of conflict in human transactions to advance the cause of another human or human institution and it’s necessary.” To do that effectively, we need to understand the true nature of human thought, human action, human reaction if done correctly, he continued. “I simply submit to you that within at least our lifetimes, a machine will never be able to do that.”
The video of the evening can be viewed here.
We are grateful to CodeX for hosting one of our first Evolve Law events in 2014 and a second in January 2016. You can see upcoming Evolve Law events here and sign up for our newsletter to stay informed.
Mary Juetten is the founder and CEO of Traklight and the Managing Director of Evolve Law. She is an international speaker, mentor and writer, who contributes to Forbes, the ABA’s Law Technology Today, The Lawyerist, Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute and is the author of Small Law Firm KPIs for Thomson Reuters. Juetten is on the Group Legal Services Association Board and leads their marketing committee plus is an advocate for LegalShield. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @maryjuetten.