Today, ALSPs represent a small percentage of all revenue in the commercial legal world. But that is steadily changing. Johnson Hana (JH) is an ambitious and venture capital-backed ALSP that perfectly captures the direction of travel for what is an important slice of the legal services market, namely process work.
The Dublin-based company, which has global ambitions and seeks to offer clients a 50% reduction in price compared to ‘traditional’ law firms, has just run its second venture round, gaining €10.5m, with Irish bank AIB leading the funding along with a number of Angels. They’ve now hit €15m in total funding and their client roster includes: LinkedIn, AirBnB, Twitter, Tesco, Ryanair and several banks.
They offer a range of process-focused services, including: commercial contracts, regulatory compliance, data privacy, banking-related legal needs – from AML to due diligence, litigation support, real estate, and M&A work.
Artificial Lawyer asked co-founder and CEO, Dan Fox, some more about the ALSP and how the business sees the world of ‘Alternative Legal Services’ growing in the years ahead.
– When did you start the ALSP and why?
JH kicked off with seed funds in 2017, before this I founded Ireland’s first eDiscovery business. This was Ireland’s first ever alternative legal solutions model. JH was a broadening of this. We saw the pervasiveness of process legal work and the scale of mishandling and overpricing.
In Ireland law firms have been monopolising the legal marketplace without challenge to their model.
It is a similar theme internationally: unhappy lawyers with a lack of balance and flexibility who feel stuck in conventional roles [and] unhappy businesses who are paying way too much for routine legal work.
We have been steadily changing this since inception, but we are now resourced to fundamentally upend the status quo and change the marketplace so it works better for those who have been disadvantaged.
– What work are you mostly focused on?
Process work, at scale. Contracting, regulatory compliance, property including title reviews, CPO, PROW, due diligence, discovery, CLM, DSARs, FOI, and complaints.
– Is AIB a client and why are they investing? (And how much funding have you received in total now?)
Yes, they are a client. They’re backing brave because they believe the legal market needs to be shaken up. They are backing our vision to educate the legal marketplace that legal advice must be treated as distinct from legal process work.
We have now raised €15m.
– It’s fairly unusual for ALSPs to get external investment (although some do), are you taking a ’startup’ approach and where do you want to get to?
We are more ambitious than other ALSPs. And we have broader solution lines. We are a law company that recognises that the heartbeat of law is its people.
By leveraging external capital we can move faster and more aggressively than our competition and ensure we can fundamentally change the marketplace. We have built and are continuing to build a dream team to advance our mission. We have been able to raise because of our fast growth and client adoption.
– Do you feel that the legal market is changing? And are attitudes to ALSPs changing as well?
ALSPs are still in an embryonic stage of growth. Law firms continue to dominate the legal market in Ireland and internationally. However clients are seeing the power of harnessing new law providers to tackle work they aren’t best suited to. We aim to educate the market further that there is a better way.
Some additional thoughts: it’s a convincing argument that a business that is shaped and staffed specifically for a set of tasks will be better suited to those tasks than a more generalist organisation, i.e. an ALSP can focus all of its attention on improving the delivery of several narrow streams of process work, whereas many law firms adhere to the pyramidal, time-based, ‘associate attrition-dependent’ business model and are often focused on a very wide range of service goals, and that can make them not always the best places to handle continuous streams of process work.
In short, there is a reason why specialisation exists in both nature and business. That doesn’t mean that law firms cannot build ALSP groups of their own – they can if they operate them using a different business model – it’s just that the dedicated ALSPs don’t have to worry about also building an advisory arm, they can just focus on what they’re good at.
That said, and as noted in previous AL articles, ALSPs have not gained as much market share as they can. But, as Fox explained above, these are still early days and there is much to play for.
[ Pic: (L-R) Dan Fox – Founder & CEO, Paul Ryan – Chief Financial Officer, Sinead Garnett – Managing Director, Legal Solutions Team, Alex Fox – Co-Founder & CCO. ]