After three days of looking at the legal technology landscape, it’s time to sit back. One question that pops into my mind: where are all the large corporate law firms in this?
One answer: nowhere.
To be clear (and fair), let’s focus the question: where was BigLaw when clients were starting to rumble about costs and efficiency years ago? They were in the sweet spot, closer to clients than anyone else. If they were really listening they could have done something. Simple, streamlined, tech-based solutions to billing, project management, eDiscovery might not get developed in-house. They could have partnered with someone, white-labeled an existing solution, or at least helped their main clients get answers and banked some goodwill.
Instead, since every client looked like a nail, they hammered away with hours, not tech answers.
Historically, BigLaw may not have had the IT. But they had all of the IP, as in a deep knowledge of what clients needed, wanted, and where they were headed next.
Some law firms were different, they saw this and did something about it. A few national and international firms had to use tech to manage their own businesses. Hardly any, though, ported these applications or processes to clients.
I can hear a managing partner saying “we sell services, not products.” And my reply is: “who said anything about selling?” You needed a robust KM strategy to be efficient, why not give free access to key clients with a 7-figure plus annual spend? It’s like a frequent biller program. Reward the use of your firm and make it painful for clients to reduce spend or leave.
Fundamentally, unbundling was probably going to happen in corporate legal services anyway. But due to a form of lawyerly technophobia, BigLaw brought some of it on themselves. They essentially ceded legal tech to new market entrants and branded themselves as followers.
The low-tech, hourly rate model has been wildly profitable; but anything that is so in the digital age isn’t forever.
There’s still some time for large law firms to change their ways tech-wise. It takes vision and real leadership. Just be careful who you put in charge.
Tomorrow we stick a fork in legal tech with a look at the virtual law firm. Trendy, not spendy.