Legal marketplace pioneer, Lexoo, will use some of its recent $4.4m funding to develop its own legal tech applications to support the lawyers who work through the platform and to provide a deeper infrastructure for them to use on client matters.
Such tools, e.g. that can support corporate deal work, will also mean that individual lawyers, or lawyers based in smaller firms, will already have some tech tools on hand to leverage their skills and do more for the clients, and work more efficiently.
The Lexoo model invites individual lawyers, as well as firms, to pitch for work that GCs put online. This can range from one-off deals to continual flows of review work. In such circumstances individual lawyers could be at a disadvantage if they don’t have the necessary tech to support them in their work.
And, more positively, tech tools that support their practice – supplied by (or through) Lexoo – will allow an individual lawyer to ‘level the field’ with other lawyers at larger firms.
Artificial Lawyer recently spoke with Lexoo co-founder and CEO, Daniel van Binsbergen, about the project. He noted that one clear use for the investment is marketing so more GCs know about Lexoo and the services that it offers. But, there is a second part to this investment, he explained, and that is building new tech internally.
‘We will invest in tech and hire more developers,’ he explained.
Van Binsbergen, who previously worked as an M&A lawyer at Dutch firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, said: ‘We want to develop those tools and deploy them across [the business], just like a law firm would.’
As the marketplace is designed around fixed fees the more efficiently its lawyers can work the better, Van Binsbergen added. This will help the lawyers to do more at a set fee, and allow an individual lawyer to use their time better for work that is not billed out on a time basis. After all, if you are a ‘freelance’ lawyer working for a fixed fee, the faster you can complete that work the better for you and the client.
Lexoo now has over 800 lawyers on its marketplace, all of which have been individually vetted. The lawyers are typically former global firm lawyers who now work independently or for boutique firms.
Van Binsbergen explained that the exact details of the applications they will develop are still in progress, but one clear example would be tech that can help support M&A deal work, such as a type of deal completion platform. ‘We can create that, a platform where all involved can see where everyone is in a deal,’ he added.
The ‘admin’ aspect of M&A deals can be very labour intensive, demanding that law firms throw junior resource not at doing the legal work, but just managing the process, getting signatures on documents, keeping track of who is doing what and their progress on a task. And we have seen startups such as DealWIP and Doxly develop applications in this space already because of this need.
In terms of the tech development timescale, he said that he wanted ‘to get the most obvious tech [developed] in the next two years’. He also noted that in some cases they may not seek to design it themselves and instead seek to licence the tech from businesses already in the market.
And that raises some interesting questions about perhaps licensing legal AI applications to give even more power to individual lawyers to take on much larger matters, e.g. review work, that they might not be able to do otherwise.
For example, why can’t an individual lawyer who is contracted with a client to review lots of similar documents make use of an AI system to help speed that process? If Lexoo could help with the licence fee that could perhaps make such a model feasible so that solo lawyers could compete head on with larger firms handling review matters.
Asked about the use of AI tech, Van Binsbergen added: ‘AI and automation? Yes, there is a business model there and there is nothing to lose from using it.’
The Achilles Heel of all legal marketplaces is that even if you have a great individual lawyer from a top law firm, if they’re working from home, or on site within a smaller inhouse legal team, they likely will not have the same level of legal tech infrastructure and the range of new legal automation tools that larger law firms will today have on hand.
It would seem that Lexoo’s move into tech development is one way to address that and helps the platform to grow even further as it targets more markets and global expansion. And, given that Lexoo’s stated competitors are the global and large scale law firms, then to make an even greater impact in the market the lawyers in its network will need this additional tech platform support.
Artificial Lawyer has to say this is a smart move. One of the key reasons that lawyers stick together in firms is that by pooling resources they can ensure they have not just the human lawyer support, in the shape of junior associates, but all the tech and admin infrastructure they need to work efficiently.
If, however, these more dispersed and on-demand services, sometimes working with individuals, can also provide cutting edge infrastructure then the logic for being in a larger firm erodes, at least for those people who like the idea of working in a freelance capacity, or in a boutique.