Fast, agile and adaptable, legal tech is the future of law. This is not a new phenomenon anymore, for years now the old corporate structures have stagnated while small and young companies have innovated and are currently transforming all of our industries. Microsoft and Apple were born in garages. Today, start-ups have changed our way of making friends, finding relationships, booking a hotel room, or taking a taxi… Start-ups change our lives and they are having a big impact on the industries from which they emerged. These changes will strike the legal world in full force. Here are the main reasons why Legal tech start-ups are able to do a lot with so little, for improving access to justice.
1) Start-ups operate in more efficient environments
Today, most start-ups have evacuated garages to take refuge in co-working spaces. Today, in every big city, there are miniature Silicon Valleys. Unlike the first start-ups, the ones today no longer operate alone, against the rest of the field. Start-up houses are helpful cooperative communities where it’s much easier to gain access to veteran entrepreneurs’ experience and expert advice. They are also places that push you to perform.
Besides the environment’s diversity, co-working spaces are increasingly providing themselves with business accelerators and incubators; genuine practical entrepreneurship boot camps and schools. The result? Entrepreneurs within those structures are aware of the best practices and tools to be more efficient and to reduce their costs.
2) Legal tech companies use powerful tools to reduce costs
“If I had known all the web applications which I know today, we could have developed our business twice as fast and at much less cost.”
Alexandre Désy, CEO of BidSettle.com
There’s an app for everything and they can make you a bigger player then you actually are. For example, you can develop a pamphlet, web advertisements or promotional videos on Fiverr.com, at one tenth of the price. It’s also possible to set up a competition with 99designs.com who can contact dozens of designers to offer your company logos, web design, promotional t-shirts, etc. You can also find web developers overseas who are 80% cheaper than in Canada. It’s within this service offering that BidSettle.com and other Legal techs are positioning themselves. With these web applications, it’s now feasible for a small business to automate and commercialize at a fraction of the cost. “This is why we can offer procedures such as a demand letter, an out-of-court settlement agreement or online legal action at a one tenth of a lawyer’s cost”, says Sherif Zaroubi CTO of BidSettle.com.
Even if those tools are available to all kinds of businesses, the largest companies generally don’t wish to (or cannot) use them. The main reason is that their structures don’t allow it. For example, a company with unionized employees can’t outsource part of its work so easily. Furthermore, without the necessary approvals, it would be impossible for a multinational’s employees to use web applications. In summary, you need to be open and flexible to take advantage of all of the available productivity applications.
The lean start-up structures makes them capable to offer services much cheaper. BidSettle’s objective is to cut costs by 10.
3) Start-ups are able to keep trying until they find the right solutions
The most important advantage of a start-up is that it has little administrative bureaucracy. It is therefore easier and cheaper to launch prototypes. It’s the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy or the art of iteration. The start-up keeps trying until it finds the winning combination. For start-ups, the idea is to prove a concept as fast as possible and to quickly start learning how to make it profitable. This would be almost impossible in a larger structure, such as a law firm.
Simply bringing in senior lawyers together for a few meetings to decide on whether to develop a prototype would likely exceed the costs that a start-up would have incurred. Moreover, large structures do not promote decision-making processes that allow for the trial and errors, which are so necessary for the development of an MVP.
4) Legal tech doesn’t have the overhead
Start-ups start from scratch to reconsider the traditional ways of doing things in their respective industries. Instead of wanting to integrate new technologies into old ways, they use the potential of technologies to transform industries. Airbnb is a good example of this disruption. This start-up, with an initial budget of $30,000 and a simple application, created an accommodation capacity equivalent to the total number of rooms of all the hotels of Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver combined.
“An application like ours could settle the equivalent of 40% of the volume of cases which are before the Superior Court of Quebec. It is much more efficient than building additional courthouses!”
Philippe Lacoursière, Chief Operating Officer at BidSettle.com
This applies to the legal world and legal tech specifically. It would cost a big law firm more in salaries to simply hold a conference with the partners than it will cost a start-up to develop an app. The example of BidSettle.com is a case in point: it has the potential of settling thousands of cases. In that way, no big law firm can compete with the business model of start-ups to come up with innovative solutions. They are simply not built to do that.