Comment: The Implications of the Uberisation of Legal Services

George Beaton’s first post of 2015 for Legal IT Insider highlights the implications of the Uberisation of legal services. This phenomenon is occurring as surely as is the Uberisation of most other parts of the services economy…

Late last year the London business press buzzed about a comment made to the Financial Times (paywall) by Maurice Levy, chief executive of global advertising group Publicis: “Everyone is starting to worry about being Ubered”. Levy was referring to the rise of the freelance economy as an increasing proportion of workers chooses – or is forced – to become self-employed as contractors.

Uberisation is not limited to driving taxis, renting rooms, and nursing. Of the professions, Uberisation is most visible in legal services because of the rise and publicity given to what we have dubbed NewLaw providers of legal services.

And it’s not just newcomers like Lawyers on Demand and Riverview Law in the UK, AdventBalance and Bespoke Law in Australia, Conduit Law in Canada, and Axiom Law in the USA that are Ubering. Large BigLaw firms are too – witness Peerpoint by Allen & Overy, Vario by Pinsent Masons, and most recently Orbit by Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Australia, to name some.

Implications of the Uberisation of legal services for individuals

Those facing the greatest uncertainty caused by Uberisation are the owners, employees and prospective employees of traditional law firms.

Most, if not all, contracted lawyers working under the auspices of one of the NewLaw firms are essentially self-employed with the freedom and positive challenges this brings. But they have no security of income, no superannuation, no permanent social work environment, no paid annual leave, no long service leave and, usually, no training and organised continuing professional development.

Especially for young practitioners there is no structured professional education program and no employer-provided training in the basics of practice. And certainly no apprenticeship – the foundation on which the next generation of the profession has been built for generations.

Implications of Uberisation of legal services for institutions

Uberisation is up-ending the status quo with inevitable implications for institutions such as universities, law societies and regulators.

The UK is now leading the world with ABS three years old with many ventures exploring Uberisation. In contrast, in Australia which de-regulated in 2007, it would seem many are not really tuning into the trend, let alone exploring the policy, service delivery and other implications. Canada and the USA with the ABA Commission have major enquiries into law under way, including some terms of reference to Uberisation – although not using the word!

The implications of the Uberisation of legal services are far-reaching and have the potential to be very positive provided all stakeholders engage and contribute.


* George Beaton, a partner in Beaton Capital and executive Chairman of Beaton Research + Consulting wrote this post. George is on LinkedIn and tweets at @grbeaton_law and @NewLawNewRules.