“We have worked with law firms but less so now because they are utterly clueless when it comes to technology. They are humans trained in excellent client service and the power of their own advisory skills. There’s lots of talk but no-one has a clue what’s coming. Everyone is good at saying ‘We have a startup programme.’ Well that’s fricking great, see you in a couple of years, let me know how you’re doing.
A big global law firm came to us and wanted to implement new technology but they were not set up to trial, implement, scale and use it. It’s a real problem. There is a generational, insular, ‘we’re alright Jack’ attitude. It’s the classic Innovators Dilemma. I’d characterise the stage law firms are at right now as everyone dipping their toe in the water. They are working with startups early so that when they get big they can be their lawyer but even then they don’t structure it well and sell high cost packages.
Apart from firms like Taylor Wessing and Orrick, which are brilliant, and JAG Shaw Baker, which is good, they see it as a cost. They don’t get the investment and time needed as a long-term investment and they are crap at picking the right tech companies to help, they want to pick the ones that get lots of investment. The key is that they don’t have empathy or any understanding of startup life.
The most important metric is to get things done quickly. Taylor Wessing, Orrick, JAG Shaw Baker and to an extent Bird & Bird have structured themselves to provide products and services to the community but even then, they probably don’t have empathy, meaning you get stuff done quickly using the latest tech tools.
Law firms need to say what their five-year goal is and the investment needed to get there. The problem with the partnership model is that I can either spend my holiday in my villa in France or invest in tech. So, I choose France but I might not have a job in five years’ time.
If it was me, I’d work out my five-year objective and a get a pool of money large enough to invest. I’d work out what my business is going to look like in five years when my margins are eroded by tech. I would invest in software but also in people, processes, systems and culture to enable me to scale over time. I would create a portfolio and invest in companies but I’d invest in systematic, behavioural change systems to make it part of my core business, otherwise people will keep on talking and suddenly the money will go elsewhere, as it did in the music industry.“
This article first appeared in our free April 2017 Newsletter alongside our newly launched startup directory. You can sign up for a copy here: http://www.legaltechnology.com//latest-newsletter/