Legal services are de facto understood as “work done by a lawyer for a client”. Although this was somewhat true in the past, law has undergone a bifurcation into legal practice and legal services delivery. While practicing law is undeniably still only in the hands of lawyers, the delivery of legal services to clients has brought an interdisciplinarity onto the playing field, creating roles for technology, tech experts, and business professionals.
What precipitated this inclusion?
Clients are no longer comfortable with lawyers dictating their needs, developing project timelines, and deciding service costs. They have realized that lawyers’ perspectives may be too one-dimensional and their commitment to legal services may be punctured by their preferred focus on the actual practice of law.
Clients have grown to understand that merely a knowledge of law isn’t enough to solve their business challenges; they need other skills such as expertise in AI, process and project management, and data analytics. The gradual and steady crystallization of the Alternative Legal Service Provider industry has been due to this very reason. ALSPs are non-traditional partnership-model law firms whose legal service delivery model departs from the beaten path. ALSP players understood early on that they bring the outside perspective and multidisciplinary expertise that fills the gaps in the legal services market as it was.
Although cost is definitely a reason for the migration of legal services from law firms to ALSPs, the 2019 Legal Market Report shows that clients are choosing ALSPs for their progressive strategies and ingenious delivery models. They also prefer ALSPs for the buffet of skills they bring to the table and the capital they pump into processes, resources, and technology to bring about efficiency savings for their clients. These ALSPs not only compete with their law firm and in-house counterparts, but also sometimes collaborate with them to make sure that their client’s goal is achieved. They pay great attention to forming a range of solutions that can be tailored to suit their client’s needs i.e they care more about what the buyer wants and less on what they can sell them.
Law’s Resistance to Change
The rigid structural and economic models on which law functions is at odds with the current demands of its clients. As Mark Cohen, CEO of Legal Mosaic, puts it ever so articulately, “Legal buyers want more with less. That means legal providers must be proactive, predictive, risk-appropriate, transparent, cost-effective, efficient, collaborative, multidisciplinary, and consumer-centric. That is not the law firm structure, economic model, or modus operandi.”
This new approach to legal services isn’t being accepted by many law firms and legal departments since traditional lawyers don’t possess the interdisciplinary skills that the contemporary delivery model expects. By acquiring these skills, attorneys would have a considerable advantage in the legal services profession, what with their categorical legal knowledge. A combination of such attorneys and other professionals will elevate legal services and help clients overcome their business challenges.
Many ALSPs offer an integrated services model that operates at an “intersection of tax, finance, consulting, strategy, information technology, and project management.” This redefined legal services delivery system has caused the monopoly that law firms had previously established to collapse. Indeed, clients are spoiled for choice with the new structures, economic models, skills, tools, and consumer-centric culture that ALSPs have infused into the legal industry.
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