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One of the welcome results of progress, be it in politics, economics, technology, science, or law, is more choice. When dictatorships are toppled and democratic regimes replace them, the people are given the choice as to which candidates are elected as their leaders. When economies are liberalized, the supermarkets are filled with more products, so there is greater choice in purchasing. When science advances, we have the choice to make informed decisions based on data and facts.
Progress in the legal sphere
When there is progress in the legal sphere, clients have more choice about which service provider they use, the delivery model of the product, and the price they pay for it. Welcome the dawn of the law company and the new law era. A “law company” is any provider of legal services that is not a traditional law firm. This broad definition includes flexible staffing companies, legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies, legal-tech companies, legal operations companies and more. Most notable in recent months has been the growth worldwide of flexible staffing companies.
Flexible staffing companies offer law firms and in-house legal departments an option to immediately (and temporarily) increase their team of lawyers. The need could be due to an increase in workflow, a leave of absence of a staff member, the need for a certain sector of jurisdictional expertise, or a place holder while a company interviews to hire. The pioneers in the flexible staffing sector — Axiom, LOD, and Elevate — are no less than giants on the legal map. In fact, their offering is so successful that many law firms around the world have opened “captive flexible staffing companies”.
For example, Allen & Overy launched Peerpoint, realizing that some of their clients would be demanding more for less. Pinset Masons followed suit by opening Vario to answer a need in the market for flexible staffing. Lawflex was launched in Israel four years ago, joining the giants in their mission to provide a successful alternative. With the onset of these law companies, consumers are now given a choice. They can choose a lawyer to work remotely or as part of their team; they can choose to add a paralegal, a legal technologist, a project manager, a newly qualified lawyer, or a partner level lawyer to their team. They can choose to do this for a day, a month, or a year. The best part is that they can make this choice, and then change their mind a month later, since the nature of the offer is that it is ad hoc and flexible.
This model is flourishing not only because it grants more choice to the consumer but also because it offers the gift of choice to the professional who is providing the service. While the model of traditional law works well for some professionals, it is not the case for others. Rather than having to leave the profession, the ability to provide services in an alternative framework gives lawyers the choice to remain in the profession. This is a welcome choice.
Progress is not an event but a process
Progress is not an event but a process. However, the single event of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move away from traditional law to new law. The cornerstones of flexible staffing companies – remote work, agile mind set, and lower charge out rates – has been a welcome and natural solution for legal consumers. Many companies are facing hiring freezes and limits to their budget. As the legal department is always defined as a “minus” on the balance sheet of a company, alternative options for augmenting a legal team are needed. Similarly, law firms that have downsized and then see a rise in deals are reluctant to jump into a hiring frenzy too quickly. Hence, alternative staffing is a solid solution for them as well.
The Thompson Reuters Report “Alternative Legal Service Providers” from 2019 states that “In just two years, revenues for alternative legal services providers have grown from $8.4 billion in 2015 to about $10.7 billion in 2017. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 12.9% over that period.” These numbers are all prior to the pandemic and are no doubt fueled heavily by it. Although still a minor part of the $1 trillion legal industry, these numbers are increasing fast.
New law will not replace traditional law, but a hybrid offering will emerge that will give clients the value of traditional law and the benefits of new law. A crisis, such as the current one, brings with it progress because necessity brings change, and change brings choice. By all means, a very welcome result.