As we have chronicled in these pages, technology is transforming all facets of the legal profession. It’s changing the way that litigators conduct discovery and try cases (and the way that judges decide those cases). It’s changing the way that transactional attorneys do deals.
And it’s changing the way that lawyers get hired. One new startup, Lateral.ly, provides an example of how technology could make a difference.
The business of law continues to evolve post-Great Recession. Law firms are dealing with clients who are trimming legal budgets, shunning expensive hourly billing rates and subsidized training of associates, and opting for smaller and more cost-sensitive legal options.
These trends have had a ripple effect. The job market for lawyers—while showing signs of improvement in small pockets—remains depressed, resulting in intense critiques of legal education, downward-trending law school applications, and law schools adapting or closing. Presumably, law students and new lawyers notice these trends and are strategizing accordingly, thinking commercially and entrepreneurially about their careers, and seeking the best legal experience and ROI in a rough macro legal market.
Entrepreneurs recognize these trends and a few startups—UpCounsel, Lawdingo, Priori Legal, and LawTrades—are riding a robust tech (and derivative branding) wave to disrupt the increasingly vulnerable legal industry. Each (i) strives to provide a frictionless and transparent platform for cost-conscious clients to quickly acquire legal services, and (ii) offers lawyers an alternative avenue to monetize their degrees free of typical infrastructural and administrative burdens of solo or small practice. This new crop of startups has earned the label “the Uber of law.” What is their value proposition for lawyers? Are they truly Uber-like providers of legal services, or is that just opportunistic branding? Should lawyers care?
Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.
Before leaving Biglaw for good, I considered doing what I felt like was the next best thing to launching my own startup: working at a firm whose clients were primarily startups. The pitch from recruiters was always the same: startups and venture capital clients are much better to work with than their “big company” and private equity counterparts.
But I wasn’t buying it. Biglaw is Biglaw. It doesn’t matter if your client is Alcoa or three co-founders with the hottest new dating app (it uses an algorithm to tell you who at the nightclub wants you to buy them a drink); clients will be demanding, and legal work is legal work.
But more and more of my former colleagues who have made the jump have been telling me that there’s truth to the claim that “startups are more fun.” So, to get some clarity on this issue, I decided to invite Ed Zimmerman, the founder of the tech group at Lowenstein Sandler and a columnist at the WSJ Accelerators Blog, to join me for a conversation on this topic. Since on-campus interviews are right around the corner, I thought this topic would be nicely timed.
And since we’re creating the conversation using ReplyAll, make sure to keep checking back on our conversation as it develops over the course of the week…
Since Lat tweeted this past weekend about my UpCounsel profile, I thought I would share some thoughts about my experience with the service to date. First off, compared to leaving a Biglaw partnership to open a new firm, trying out a new legal platform was easy. I first heard about UpCounsel from a former in-house client who had struck out on his own. He happens to now be back in-house, but at the time we discussed UpCounsel, he was very enthusiastic about his experience using the site. Since I happen to like trying out new things, signing up once I left Biglaw was an easy decision.
Notice how I did not join UpCounsel while a Biglaw partner. Such things are simply not done. For all of Biglaw’s talk about encouraging partners to be “entrepreneurial” or to “try new marketing ideas,” there is a lot of resistance to using “new ways” to reach potential new clients. Couple that inertia with a general distaste towards marketing individual lawyers at the expense of “firm branding” (aside from a select group of key current rainmakers), and platforms like UpCounsel face a Tough Mudder-level set of obstacles to overcome if they want to break into the Biglaw firm marketing rotation. But I don’t think UpCounsel and their “evolution of legal services”-oriented kin want to….
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Dan Lear explores the role of technology in the future of the legal industry.
“A lot of people have recently jumped in [to the legal tech/startup space] but the fact is that law isn’t any different than any other industry.” Josh Kubicki – Co-founder Lex Redux
In August 2011 Mark Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and noted venture capitalist, wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Software is Eating the World.” In it Andreessen stated that software had already revolutionized many industries: bookselling (think Amazon vs. Borders), video rental (Netflix vs. Blockbuster), and music (iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora) and warned: “Companies in every industry need to assume that a software revolution is coming.” (Emphasis added.)
Fast forward less than three years and Lex Redux may be the sound of the software revolution arriving at the legal industry’s doorstep.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi of Ms. JD interviews lawyers who have found their passion by leaving the law.
Fact: The law isn’t for everyone. Fiction: You have to practice law if you’re a law school graduate.
Sometimes, you just have to leave the law completely and follow the road less traveled in order to find your true passion. I’ve interviewed two former attorneys who were brave enough to venture into the unknown and in the process, discover their passions outside of the law.
MEE-JUNG JANG (New York, NY)
1. What is your current occupation or line of work?
Ronan Farrow: a former Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree turned contest judge.
Since 2012, the list-loving folks at Forbes have been publishing “30 Under 30″ compilations for various fields of endeavor. The 2014 lists just came out, and they include, of course, a 30 Under 30 for law and public policy. We noted the news in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs.
A list of notable legal eagles under 30 presents additional problems. Unlike, say, sports or the arts, where people over 30 might already be “over the hill,” law doesn’t lend itself to super-young prodigies. As Miguel Morales of Forbes points out in introducing the list, “It’s never easy for FORBES staffers to sniff out the 30 best and brightest Millennials making an impact on their fields. In law and public policy, where most people are barely out of law school by 30, let alone blazing trails in their fields, the task sometimes felt farcical.”
Whether it’s farcical or not, we know you want to see the list. Let’s have a peek, shall we?
Being general counsel is like being Tom Hagen in the Godfather — you’re a Consigliere.
– A “top lawyer at a New York City startup,” explaining the value of creative lawyering to getting a new business off the ground. Daniel Doktori of WilmerHale spoke to a number of GCs about when startups should hire a lawyer and how to make the most of their new counsel when they do. Just always remember that Tommy isn’t a wartime consigliere.
Video games and the law are quite a combination. Sometimes games spawn lawsuits, like Zynga’s case against the makers of Bang With Friends (which should really just change its name to Bangville, as Joe Patrice suggested). Sometimes the law spawns games, like Primordia, created by Harvard Law grad Mark Yohalem.
Are you a lawyer who enjoys playing video games? And do you like making money?
Here’s one lawyer’s story of how he took his interest in gaming and monetized it quite nicely….
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!