Legal Tech From In The House
Ask people about their opinions on lawyers, and they all have something to say. Believe it or not, but feedback on in-house counsel outpaces even that of the practicing attorney. There’s a clamor for change.
I wrote about legal tech in general earlier this year. Since then, I have led several discussions regarding in-house attorneys; we’ve even went so far as to conduct interview with several legal tech companies that are expanding to in-house tools and services.
What did we glean from our questions? Folks want improved efficiency—efficiency in knowledge management, document sharing, track changes, client relationship systems, and project management. You name it, they want it more efficient. But don’t take my word for it. As Roberto Facundus, SVP, Legal & Business Affairs at Tongal, Inc explained:
“Especially for in-house counsel, anything that saves time is welcome. There’s a disconnect in the way outside counsel and their clients—in-house counsel—work [together]. One is incentivized by increasing time worked (greater billable hours) and the other is incentivized by decreasing time worked (maximizing productivity, reducing expenses). In-house attorneys don’t make money on time spent working so working efficiently is imperative. Any legal tech that saves an attorney time through increased efficiency is inherently valuable and attorneys—more than almost any profession—know the value of time. If in-house attorneys serve as the early adopters for new legal tech, then the outside counsel should take notice to please their clients and adapt to the efficiency model. Doing so could cause a long overdue disruption to the antiquated billable hour.”
Roberto’s gives an interesting perspective to the evolution of the profession as a whole. Many law firms are holding back on technology use. Having in-house counsel demand efficiency will not only accelerate technology adoption but lead to innovation as well.
Some attorneys are slow adopters on purpose; they need to find a partner or information technology professional who likes the technology and then have them allocate the time to adopt. That said, Sally Robertson, Senior Director, Attorney Services for LegalZoom, Inc. emphasized that solutions need to be simple: “A lot of tech geared toward lawyers is not intuitive. It’s important to keep it simple and easy/quick to use. Lawyers are busy people so the more straightforward the tech is, the better.”
One way to aid simplicity? Integrations. Various technology solutions need to work in tandem—seamlessly—and not require multiple steps or logins for clients and attorneys alike. Of course, solutions working together—and achieving simplicity—requires wherewithal, know-how, savvy—or as Ned Gannon, CEO of eBrevia, Inc.describes it, domain expertise: “We’ve found that domain expertise has been critical to selling on the corporate side of the legal industry. Having walked in our customers’ shoes as attorneys in law firms and in-house legal departments, we’ve been able to anticipate questions and workflow requirements as well as craft compelling value propositions for targeted audiences.”
Building on the legal domain expertise theme, I interviewed the German company BusyLamp, which recently expanded to the US with a new office in NYC. The interview was so enlightening that I thought I’d share the entire exchange.
Me: What does your company do? What problem are you solving?
BusyLamp: We help legal departments run their departments like business units. The increasing demand for cost efficiency is in contrast to the steadily growing and overwhelming workload that in-house legal counsel must manage. We solve this problem by automating the procurement of legal services, project management, and the review of invoices. Our software helps clients of law firms to effectively manage and significantly reduce what they spend on outside counsel. We combine a legal procurement module with the ability to track legal fees almost in real time with an automated invoice review.
Juetten: What’s the vision for your company?
Busylamp: We want to become the global category leader. After having been in business for not even two years, we won numerous, big European clients, and we just on-boarded our first Forbes Global 500 client. We simplified legal expense management and are now expanding to the US to take on big players like Thomson Reuters TRI +0%. With our standardized SaaS model, we manage to reduce clients’ costs for software while achieving better results than old-fashioned e-billing tools.
Juetten: Startups are an adventure; what’s yours? Any lessons learned?
BusyLamp: The idea of BusyLamp was born in 2011 when we were working as big-law attorneys and realized that the billing process was being handled terribly wrong. Unsatisfied clients who were surprised by what they thought were excessive legal bills led to unsatisfied and frustrated lawyers who now had to pay the price. We discussed it over a glass of wine and quit our jobs a few months later. When we left, we didn’t tell our former employers what we were planning to do. Not even 12 months later one of our former employers, a big US law firm, received a request from one of our first clients to implement our tool and suddenly the relation of one of the founders changed from former employee to business partner. It helped a lot that he had left the firm on friendly terms and still had a lot of supporters among the partners. This story taught us that even if you start something completely new, you always meet twice. Treat everybody with respect, foster your network, and eventually, you will succeed.
Juetten: How do you measure success? And what is your favorite success story?
BusyLamp: The way we measure success is constantly changing depending of the stage of our company. We adopt typical KPI when reporting to our investors but the most important parameter is the sales cycle. Due to our track record and our growing reputation, we manage to constantly shorten it. Our latest achievement is that we managed to close a deal with a Fortune Global 500 company in less than three months.
Juetten: You don’t have to be an industry expert to know that a three-month sales cycle is not only impressive, but also substantially shorter than that of big law firms. That’s just one more reason for legal technology companies to consider diversifying with the in-house market. #onwards.
Mary Juetten is the founder and CEO of Traklight and the co-founder of Evolve Law. She is a LegalShield Access Advocate and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill and a JD from Arizona State.