Elevate, the law company, has a vision of a modular offering across multiple service areas, interwoven and supported by their own unified platform of homebuilt software, that covers everything from consulting to flexible resourcing to managed legal services. And, it’s steadily reshaping expectations of what a legal services business can become.
Since 2011, Liam Brown, the co-founder and CEO, and the growing team at Elevate, have built a $85 million business, with now 1,200 people around the world. Until the Covid-19 slowdown it was hitting 25% revenue growth per annum and had been on track to hit $100m, although 2020 will now probably be closer to $95m.
Elevate may have looked almost a decade ago as perhaps another ‘ALSP’ – a term that Elevate rejects as they don’t see themselves as an ‘alternative’ to a law firm. Rather they are providing a range of professional and operational services that are just as valid and necessary as anything else in the legal market. Today, a better comparison would be something more akin to one of the Big Four in terms of business philosophy, although as of today it’s clearly smaller and focused primarily on legal sector needs.
In fact, Brown tells Artificial Lawyer exactly that: ‘We see our competitors as the Big Four.’ Then he adds that if Accenture was primarily focused on the legal sector then they would also be a competitor. And that is what is different about Elevate and it also tells us something about the law company’s long-term ambitions.
In our discussion we explored a number of metaphors to explain what Elevate is now and where it is going. A good starting place that Brown noted is that you ‘could see it like a department store’ that offered:
- Software development (which includes a range of capabilities covering everything up to and including NLP/machine learning software.)
- Consulting and support in designing law departments and their processes.
- Managed Legal Services.
- Flexible resource via ElevateFlex.
- Handling disputes and e-discovery.
- Handling contracts, procurement and compliance.
- Handling medical claims (which even includes a team that helps predict future care needs of individuals).
- And of course, major review tasks from M&A to LIBOR.
- Elevate Next, the practice of law business,
- And more….
When you look at the business from a few steps back you realise just how much it’s offering via its modular approach. And in truth, to call all of this an ‘alternative’ to law firms doesn’t make much sense, especially now that many large law firms are also diversifying their offerings into many of the areas above.
In a world of Elevate, the Big Four and law firms offering consulting, process capabilities, and in some cases building and selling their own tech solutions, old barriers are breaking down.
Elevate had been building its own suite of tech tools for some time, then it acquired NLP/ML business LexPredict, and has further built out its offering.
They’re offering everything from NLP-driven contract review, to bill analysis and preparation systems, to project management capabilities, and matter management platforms.
Again, the approach is modular – you don’t have to use all of it, the same as you don’t have to use all of the main service offerings. You could if you wanted to, but that’s not expected.
And although providing clients with a range of tech tools is now standard, how many legal services businesses build an entire tech suite of their own to offer clients? Again, this is a signal of Elevate’s view of where it is heading and its way of working.
And at this point Brown introduces another vision: Ciscoisation, i.e. referring to the tech company Cisco where everything that can be digital is digital, especially the sales process.
He notes that with the Covid-19 lockdown and the sudden expansion of remote working now, providing a digital platform for clients to work through becomes even more important.
I.e. Elevate is not just seeking to cover off a range of needs an inhouse legal team may have, they want it all to be directly accessible online, with the ability to see the progress of their projects that various teams are working on, perhaps using tech that Elevate has also built itself.
‘We have a multi-year journey. We are building one common data model, one common machine intelligence, one dashboard [for clients],’ Brown explains.
This site suggests that you could call this an Operating System for Legal, a ‘Legal OS’, especially when you connect it to all the services above. Brown notes that you could indeed see it this way. What they are building is all about a complex, multi-faceted offering, but which is simple and easy to engage and work with.
And it’s not until you really focus on this vision that you see what Brown and team are really building here. This is about as far away from an LPO or old-fashioned ALSP as a major city like Los Angeles, where Brown is based, is different to a small village.
It makes Artificial Lawyer wonder where all of this could get to in time. It also raises the question why the organisations that are happy to be called ALSPs are not racing down the same road? Some are getting there slowly, widening their offerings, embracing more tech solutions, e.g. UnitedLex working with Seal Software, and Epiq expanding outward into different areas and working with Diligen.
But, Elevate seems to have zoomed ahead in recent years, especially since their massive acquisition spree.
A Secret Sauce?
So, what is Elevate’s secret? How has it been able to rapidly grow into a successful global business, that could in another decade be many, many times larger?
Brown’s insight here is very practical, and clearly effective: ‘We try to identify those firms and companies that want to get to the next stage. We don’t try to make people work in a different way. We find the people who want to work differently.’
After watching some legal tech companies and other suppliers banging their collective heads against multiple brick walls for many years, it sounds like a logical approach. Why waste all your marketing energy with a scattergun approach? Work with the willing, don’t try to force people to change.
Of course, that means getting out there and listening to pick up those signals. But, with Elevate’s growing global network this is easier to do than for some.
It’s rare to meet someone in the legal sector with such a compelling and complete vision and who has actually got a good distance into making that vision a reality. And it’s clear that Brown and team still have a huge amount of ambition. In some ways it feels like Elevate and what it is becoming is only just getting started. And that means the rest of the legal market should really take note.