If there’s one definite thing that we had to learn over the last 11 months is how to persevere. How to “face adversity“ in our lives (be it in the form of house quarantine, business lockdown, limitations to our freedom, to our health and for many even losing loved ones) and through that to “build resilience” and “find joy“.
For those who have read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B” the caption will sound familiar. For those who haven’t, try to get a copy – you will find yourself associating to the stories in the book in more ways than you thought, especially during these peculiar times we are living in.
Across Europe all countries have imposed lockdowns (each in their own version) but businesses have – one way or another – been forced to limit significantly (if not entirely) their contact with customers. As a natural recourse, businesses have turned (now more than ever before) to digital solutions – to keep in touch, to stay up to date and to remain relevant to their customers. Lockdowns, and the pandemic in general, have left no-one unaffected, and among the greatly impacted the legal profession is included.
As a highly client-centric profession, legal professionals need to ensure they maintain frequent contact and communication with their clients. With the measures imposed to fight the pandemic, lawyers were confronted with new rules of social conduct whilst having to balance the imminent need to stay in touch. The creation of a virtual environment between lawyers and clients was not one to come easy – skipping from in-person meetings to video calls often makes people feel uncomfortable, reserved and not fully concentrated in what is happening. Even more so, “moving” court proceedings from the dim, moist, petrichor-smelling court rooms to online judication has forced both judges, lawyers and clients alike to adjust to new realities – those were technology provides your best (and only) option to get your case handled.
The pandemic has forced humans across the world to adopt new skills. For lawyers the challenge is to (quickly) accept new technologies, develop technical computer skills and embrace digital. For the more tech savvy ones, this has also been an opportunity to utilize automation technologies, big data and Artificial Intelligence. During COVID times, the lawtech movement has expanded rapidly across the legal sector, shifting legal processes to become faster, more efficient, more accessible and offered at a lower cost.
With these values engraved in their service offering, online legal marketplace start-ups have evolved into great assets, providing bespoke and tech-enabled teams to other industry disruptors. Main example includes Lexoo, founded in 2014 as an online marketplace that has grown today into a huge network with over 1,000 lawyers covering 65 countries and having raised $4.4 million in its latest financing round. Lexoo assists its clients with their recurring workstreams – from sales agreements, procurement contracts, employment contracts, NDAs and GDPR audits, to assembling multi-jurisdictional teams for multi-country projects. Its clientele includes Ocado, Nielsen, Monzo, Transferwise and Revolut. Lexoo teams have also been appointed on legal panels for corporate giants such as Vodafone and Travelodge.
Lexoo is real-time evidence on how utilization of technology can eradicate boundaries and limitations in delivering big-scale legal operations across multiple jurisdictions simultaneously; eliminating the need for transatlantic trips and conference-size meetings. Being in a position to offer traditional legal services in an alternative way is key during crisis situations (such as this one we’re going through), where the need for lawyers to provide their services despite the unavailability of flights, meetings or in-person conferences is extremely high.
Similar to Lexoo, InCloud Counsel was founded in 2014 by three individuals with backgrounds in finance and Big U.S. Law firms, whose market experience helped them identify the hurdles that high volume legal work would impose on companies. They designed a unique labour model utilizing high-end technology to create an end-to-end solution, relieving companies from their legal workload.
They have incorporated AI, automation and machine learning in their work model and have established a curated network of experienced freelance attorneys who are carefully selected to fit each client’s specific needs. InHouse Counsel lawyers undertake routine legal workload from companies such as vendor contracts and NDAs whilst utilizing their end-to-end legal platform backed by AI and machine learning.
This new labour model not only allows companies to complete ongoing, recurring work which often causes delays in workstreams but also offers a work-model like no other before for freelance lawyers, a model that has been unheard of in the corporate legal world. InHouse Counsel prides itself for offering work opportunities with flexible hours and remote working, allowing lawyers to take on as much or as little work can fit in their schedule, without being tied down to one specific desk at one office location; perks which many firms have been forced to incorporate in their business style due to the pandemic, but few are those who can claim they were successful with this new working style.
In their “resilience” rulebook Farillio have included all the ins-and-outs that businesses need to know before they become… a business! From handling HR matters and customer complaints to harnessing IP protection rights, Farillio provide legal solutions to new or looking-to-expand businesses and include all the legal details they should be aware for protecting their company. The idea for Farillio came from CEO Merlie Calvert who personally experienced the struggle in finding key-information and materials required to build a new business; so she decided to set up a company that would fix this. All the required legal materials are shared in a collaborative environment, built in Google-style documents, including all the particulars as these may arise in editable format.
The start-up includes not only legal documentation but also pitching guides, KPI tools, tax advice on cash-flow and VAT and tax incentives that can be used. Farillio assists other start-ups, freelancers and small businesses to make sure that they are building their venture on a solid basis. Website terms and conditions for the sale of goods, services and digital content to consumers, invoicing notes as well as standard NDA documents are only a sample of the solutions that can be found; all handy tools during a pandemic season – when idle time served as an opportunity for many new small businesses to pop up.
Amazon IP Accelerator
And while SME’s and start-ups are elevating technology to offer innovative legal-tech solutions to the market, filling the gaps that big law companies failed to address whilst offering direct and lower cost solutions to their akin, corporate conquistador Amazon has also made its entrance into the legal tech world.
In October 2019 Amazon launched the IP Accelerator, a programme that helps brands obtain Intellectual Property rights and brand protection for their products sold on Amazon’s stores. Through IP Accelerator Amazon has partnered up with law firms and other experts and offers start-ups and SMEs the opportunity to hear from expert legal advisors how they can “protect their brands and avoid costly mistakes in the trademark filing process“.
The IP law firms and lawyers assisting with IP Accelerator have agreed standard, pre-negotiated rates for their services offered with regards to trademark registration. The legal experts can undertake the entire trademark filing process on behalf of SMEs and can also complete any required copyright registrations, design patents and draft or review license agreements, making it easier for businesses to protect their brands in their entirety. What is also important is that Amazon does not charge the businesses any additional fees for utilizing its IP Accelerator; businesses only pay the legal experts for the work performed at the pre-negotiated rates.
The pandemic has really shaken the world to its core. Whether we agree or not with the policies and measures followed by governments to contain the spread, it is trivial to the need that has been created for humans to find ways to face adversity. It is also immaterial to the need that has emerged in finding joy, within our personal and professional lives; be it with a recurring video-call with family or turning to technology and digital to save our business.
Legal tech start-ups are undoubtedly some of the players that have had the biggest opportunity to grow during the pandemic. With their problem-solving solutions they have kept their customers assured for their level of service offered, even before the pandemic kicked in. The new realities, in the way we lead our lives or how we do business, are here to stay. Lawyers, accountants and all professionals alike need to ensure they remain relevant to their customers’ needs.
It requires stamina, speed and determination to keep up but we have all, thus far, realised that what we’re going through is a marathon and not a 100m race. We have to overcome adversity, be creative and innovative so we can reach joy; and this is a mantra we can embrace in everything we do.