As Siemens Works With BCLP, Could Big Tech One Day Wipe Out Legal Tech?

Siemens is a technology and engineering company with 385,000 employees and revenues of around $90 billion. You could fit every legal tech startup and scale-up on the planet inside this massive business and it would still be just be a fraction of what it does.

Which is why it was interesting to see that international law firm, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s process group, BCLP Cubed, has announced a partnership with Mendix, the Siemens business, which is ‘a global leader in low code application development’, as they put it.

The formal partnership follows other projects they have worked on, including linking to doc review systems. They’ve also built – as is the trend at the moment – a COVID-19 app using Mendix.

BCLP Cubed’s CEO, Neville Eisenberg, said: ‘Using Mendix, BCLP Cubed is very rapidly turning around platforms that deliver the new services they require within days or weeks, something which could have taken months using traditional methods.’

And then BCLP Cubed Chief Technology Officer, Jody Jansen, added: ‘The partnership with Mendix is a demonstration of our commitment to using best-in-class technology, which includes platforms that have not been created exclusively for the legal industry.’

Woooah………hold on a moment.

Let’s just repeat that last bit: ‘…best in class technology…that [has] not been created exclusively for the legal industry.’

And of course, why not? People should use the applications that are best for them, that are at the right prices, with the right level of support and do what they need.

Does it matter that a company with revenues the size of Bolivia’s GDP is selling its tech into the legal market, and not just things like basic productivity tools such as the ineluctable Microsoft Word, but stuff that really gets into the nooks and crannies of a law firm’s work flows, i.e. the domain of much of legal tech’s many companies?

That is to say, of course lawyers are already using loads of ubiquitous tech from the big corporations, but at the same level everyone else does. Where things get interesting is where there is competition around tools that the legal tech market often sells on the basis that it is tailored for the legal sector.

Over the years we have seen several Big Tech companies produce tools that could easily be adapted to compete with many different segments of the legal tech market. For example, Google’s Document Understanding platform, with sufficient time and training, could do some valuable doc review work. Microsoft’s Azure and Power BI platforms also provide some interesting opportunities to build some powerful tools for use in the legal market – if any firms’ tech teams wanted to do so and had the time and energy for a big DIY project (and some do…).

More broadly, we have seen Amazon create a special platform that offers IP lawyers to the market, and most recently we have seen LinkedIn bring aboard the team from UpCounsel (Inc.) to build out a lawyer and professional services finder system. Although, those are not ‘legal tech’ as such, and are really just marketplaces for legal services.

Despite the above, overall, the legal market – both inhouse teams and law firms – continues to look to tech companies that have the word ‘legal’ somewhere prominent on their websites.

Artificial Lawyer has asked a number of people over the years why it was that Big Tech has been so unbothered by the $800 billion global legal market? The short answer is that even though the legal market as a whole is notable, the demand for super-tailored products, e.g. a bunch of pre-trained NLP software that is great for analysing legal issues in derivatives contracts, is really just too much of a pain to get into. They’ll sell you the vanilla package of machine learning software, but you can do all the training and quality control to make sure it delivers as expected. They don’t want that albatross around their very substantial corporate necks.

Same goes for databases and data sharing. There is a ton of tech out there that people can use to store data, but Big Tech doesn’t want to get into contract lifecycle management and building special dashboards that make sense to lawyers.

Litigation databases are another key example here. Would Amazon one day make Thomson Reuters an offer for Westlaw that it could not refuse? Maybe…..but, it seems unlikely. And would it go after the many smaller legal data analysis and prediction companies? Nope, that’s very unlikely. It’s all too sector specific for a generalist company.

Which leads us to no-code/low-code systems. The idea behind such systems is that it’s all about the user making what they want – i.e. it’s meant to be a general, all-purpose piece of software. Here there could be some competition, as Mendix (on face value) should be as adaptable as software from companies such as Neota Logic and Bryter.

I.e. where Big Tech is expected to do all the hard work and then sell you a finished, legal sector specific end product, they have better things to do. But, where they can sell you stuff that is the same as they sell to everyone else, and then you do all the hard work and make it into an end product for your specific needs….well, that is something else.

And it’s something that is a lot easier to sell. Which is why Mendix could make an impact on the legal sector, whereas this site really doesn’t expect Amazon, Google or Microsoft to try too hard to take on specialised legal tech at its own game of pre-building super-customised tools for lawyers.

In short, for Big Tech selling generic ‘parts’ to lawyers that they make into what they want is a lot easier – and more economical for the likes of Siemens – than selling the specially pre-made applications that lawyers often want.

To conclude: Big Tech can have an impact where there is a low barrier to entry and pre-built input is at a minimum. No code, by its very nature is meant to be adaptable and open to DIY approaches, just as anyone can get hold of Microsoft 365 and use its many aspects for whatever they want.

In which case, Big Tech is not about to wipe out legal tech any time soon. But, no-code/low-code companies may now have to deal with another competitor in this space.

Let’s give the last word to Nick Ford, chief technology evangelist at Mendix, who said: ‘It is essential to prove the benefit of technology investments to the board and low-code provides tangible results quickly. Rapid innovation is proving key to responding to the current global situation across many different industries, and the legal sector is no exception to this.

‘That is why we are delighted that BCLP Cubed, which is gaining recognition as a major innovator in the legal sector, has chosen to partner with Mendix as a way of delivering for its clients. It is a vote of confidence in our platform and we look forward to continuing to work with the BCLP Cubed team to create additional solutions that deliver for their clients.’

Below is a short video about Mendix.

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