Solutions for Law Firms
Law firms work in a business context that has never been more challenging.
Clients, who are themselves under great pressure to reduce costs, reject rate increases, ask for Alternative Fee Arrangements (many of which are, in substance, discounts), and resist use of junior associates. Competition is constant among law firms for work from sophisticated clients is constant.
Legal Process Outsourcers offer low-cost solutions for litigation document review, due diligence document review and other routine work. Despite the tightened hiring market, competition among firms for the best among law school graduates continues, thus continuing upward pressure on associate compensation. And, despite the downturn in the real estate market, long-term rents are not declining.
By building Neota Logic applications for (and with) their clients, law firms will:
- Create innovative, differentiating services—Clients hear from every firm that its lawyers are exceptional, its experience is deep, and its focus is the client's most challenging problems. In that sea of sameness, a firm that offers clients expert applications to solve their day-to-day problems is a true differentiator, demonstrating not only its expertise but also its understanding of the client's business challenges.
- Deepen client relationships—A Neota Logic application built by a firm and delivered via a client's intranet will give first-level guidance on a topic important to the client, while extending the firm's reputation within the company and leading to higher-level work in the practice area.
- Create new revenue streams not dependent on the billable hour—In a world of Alternative Fee Arrangements, both clients and firms are seeking to escape from the old formula, Time = Value. Expert applications take time to build, of course. But once built, an expert application will answer 10 or 10,000 questions in the same hour. Value is in the answers, not the hour. Firms and clients can talk sensibly about value without regard to hours.
- Leverage the firm’s expertise more effectively, without adding associates—Expert applications work 24/7, do not take vacations, and don't get offices or salaries. The law firm leverage model can be dramatically improved from the 1:2 to 1:4 partner:associate range by adding expert applications as revenue sources.
Neota Logic applications are particularly powerful for a firm's regulatory, advisory and international or cross-border practices. Applications may be designed for all clients in an industry, or may be tailored to the requirements of a specific client. Using Neota Logic's modular construction tools, an application can be designed to have a common core for all clients and a separate module for a specific client.
Evolution of Legal Services
Richard Susskind argues in his most recent book, The End of Lawyers?, that legal services are pulled along an evolutionary path from the bespoke, traditional, truly one-off, highly tailored starting point through three intermediate steps toward a commoditized, undifferentiated end-point. Evolution affects not only individual practices (who drafts an interest rate swap agreement from scratch today?) but also the profession as a whole, and is largely enabled by technology.
Where Can We Innovate?
Where along this path can highly skilled lawyers innovate and prosper? Certainly at the highest levels of bespoke service, as good lawyers have always done. But also by exploiting advanced technology to systematize aspects of practice and package such systems for use by clients. Neota Logic's technology enables a systematic approach to remarkably complex areas of law and compliance, far beyond what can be done with document assembly, collaboration, project management and workflow tools alone.