Planned Departure team attended a conference organised by the Legal Futures. Theme of the conference was – Era of The Entrepreneur. Most of the discussions were around how ABS (Alternate Business Structure) is changing the face of law industry. This post is a summary of our experience at the event.
Last week we had the privilege of attending a conference from Legal Futures. Theme of the conference was around ABS (Alternate Business Structure) and how it is fuelling the innovation in the legal industry. Conference was chaired by the editor of Legal Futures, Neil Rose.
In case you do not know it already, ABS stands of Alternate Business Structure. ABS allows non lawyers (Such as investors, accountants etc.) to own or invest in law firms, subject to regulatory approval granted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Council of Licensed Conveyancers – according to this article from the Guardian.
In his opening note at the conference, Neil shared that around 400 firms have got ABS licences and 85% of the firms which got ABS licences have 10 or less partners. ABS is also acquired by big accountancy firms such as KPMG. It has also allowed private equity firms such as Root Capital to invest in law firms. Main theme of the conference was to discuss implications of this external investment in the law firms and how it is changing the industry.
After the opening note from Neil, next item in the agenda was panel discussion on a very interesting topic – Does it take non-lawyers to change the market?
Some of the main highlights of this panel discussion were – – Consumers of legal services are getting more and more knowledgable and powerful. They shop around more. As a result, law firms need to change the way they deal with the customers. – Eddie Ross from Quality Solicitors mentioned that if firms join QS, they should expect to change the way law practices are handled. – Chris Marston (CEO of LawNet) and Eddie, both of them were of the opinion that lawyers should focus on the delivery and other aspects of the business should be handled by people who are good at it. – George Bull (National Chair of Professional Practice Group, Baker Tilly) said that partnerships are important, but any partnership should consider following four factors – Purpose, Strategy, Model and Structure. – Chris Marston mentioned that measuring client satisfaction is crucial, as customers will continue to become more and more powerful.
– Eddie Ross mentioned that customers can and will change the market.
From this session, it became clear to me that one of the main focus for law firms in future would be the focus on customer service. Eddie Ross gave a great analogy that when people fly, they do not look for the specification of the aeroplane itself – they look for the service and experience.
Chris mentioned that designing new services is a capital intensive operations – from capabilities to marketing those capabilities, everything need cash. This is where ABS can help law firms with the cash or expertise.
After the end of first session, it was clear that market for legal services is undergoing a major change. Focus is shifting towards customer service and consumer is becoming more and more powerful. A good change in my opinion. This panel discussion was followed by the presentation from Simon Phillips of Root Capital and William Robins from Keystone Lawyers. Keystone Lawyers took external investment from Root Capital sometime back. Simon and William shared their views on deal and why this deal was important.
Slides from this talk can be found at
These two sessions provided enough food for the mind and discussion continued on the future of law practices during coffee break. It was great to hear first hand experience from many prominent practitioners and how they are shaping law industry. Next session at the conference was a panel discussion based on the report from Legal Services Consumer Panel.Andy Foster from the panel mentioned that Legal market in 2020 would be very different from the legal market of today and primary factor for this change would be technology.
During his talk, Andy mentioned capabilities of Watson from IBM and it’s ability to process natural languages. Ability to process natural languages is important because 80% of our data is unstructured, comprised of natural languages. It was amazing to see what a super computer can do with the ability to process this unstructured data reliably. Report Andy mentioned in his talk can be found here. This talk was followed by a panel discussion and it was highlighted that law services are still out of reach for majority of individuals and businesses. Individuals and businesses, still try and avoid taking legal services as much as they can. Craig holt from the Quality Solicitor mentioned that it’s important to make legal services accessible to everyone.
Panel discussion reiterated that consumer is becoming more and more knowledgable and informed consumer will drive change
It was predicted that technology will change the way legal services are delivered
After this presentation and small presentation from the sponsors of this conference, Jon Whittle from LexisNexis took the stage to talk about The new entrepreneurs. One of the striking thing from his talk was
Jon’s talk was followed by the panel discussion on the same topic with George Bisnought (Managing Director, Excello Law), Alex Hamilton (CEO, Radiant Law) and Dana Denis Smith (Chief Executive, Obelisk)
It was refreshing to see so many entrepreneurs with the law background. They highlighted the need to have entrepreneurial mindset in the law industry.
After this panel discussion, next presentation was from Jordan Furlong – The walls are coming down. This talk was delivered via Skype from Canada. Jordan continued with the theme of the conference and mentioned that it is important for law firms to change as everything around them is changing. Jordan also highlighted the need for packaging legal solutions delivered online
Jordan emphasised that it is important to make processes and operations explicit because explicit processes make them more transparent and manageable. He recommended a a book – The checklist manifesto from Atul Gwande to understand the importance of explicit processes.
After this amazing talk (which essentially recapped everything mentioned in earlier talks), final session was on The law firm trade. This session started by David Grossman, Chief Executive of Simplify Group. He gave us an overview of how Simplify Group is structured and their mission
It was good to understand the crux of their mission statement and what Simplify Group means by – Changing legal services for good.
I had to leave final three talks because of the prior engagements, but I echo the feeling expressed by Eddie Ross from Quality Solicitors
From what I could gather, Law firms in the future will continue to invest in technology, will find ways measure their client satisfaction and keep customers at the centre of their universe. Overall, it was a great conference and I will certainly look for their next event. My sentiments after the conference can be summarised by this tweet from Eliza
Finally, with more and more firms acquiring ABS licenses, this picture nicely summarises the way legal industry is heading
Thank you Legal Futures for inviting us – we hope to see you around!!
Please stay in touch and share this post with people who may have missed this conference.