Client demand and “enabling” technologies are driving the growth of New Law firms, a symposium on New Law heard last week.
Presenters at the symposium held as part of RMIT’s Entrepreneurship Week, each gave their view on how they saw New Law.
Law Squared founder and director Demetrio Zema said New Law is a “fundamentally philosophically different business model to traditional law”. Mr Zema saw his business as a deliverer of legal services rather than a legal firm and used “enabling” technology to service clients who are often alienated by the traditional legal firm model.
Legally Yours CEO Karen Finch said that New Law was analogous to Uber “where you know how much it’s going to cost, how long you’ll wait until they’ll turn up, and where exactly they’re going. Everything is fixed and transparent – there’s certainty, it’s convenient and it’s simple.”
Harris Cost Law principal and Innovim director Liz Harris contrasted that with the traditional law firm practise of billing by the hour, which she said created uncertainty and anxiety in clients and ignored the value of lawyers as trusted advisors.
“Corporate clients tell me they prefer to deal with accountants or financial planners who are less focused on billing by time. They are working on a partnership with clients more than we as lawyers are,” she said.
Value from the client’s perspective is subjective, Ms Harris said. “So, it’s about having that discussion with your client as to what they see as an acceptable outcome and what kind of experience they want with the law firm, and all that plays into value. With the introduction of AI what we need to be moving to is the soft skills and the strategic skills, which can’t be valued by time.”
RMIT Graduate School of Business and Law lecturer Aaron Lane said that New Law firms have provided young lawyers with another alternative “rather than staying in a firm where they’re marking time and accounting for every six minutes of their life. In the past, people have pulled out by going into policy, or in-house, or related industry – but now there’s a new option for people to withdraw out of the traditional firm and plug into something else.”
“New Law goes broader than a law firm and the traditional notion of legal service. It offers the opportunity to create more meaningful roles,” Peer Legal principal and LIV Law and Technology Committee co-chair Peter Moran told the forum. He believes there will be a critical point in the future “where the market will demand that that’s how they want things done”.
“When will the innovative disruptive things that New Law firms are doing become the norm?” Mr Moran said. “Will that be because of New Law firms taking over market share or through traditional law firms changing the way they do things?”
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