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Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong is a leading analyst of the global legal market and forecaster of its future development. Visit his website and blog. Email Twitter @jordan_law21.

Suppose that, tomorrow, you needed to create a business that provides legal services – but law firms had never been invented, and you didn’t have that reference point to use as a template. Being a sensible and forward-thinking person, you might come up with an entity that featured many of the following characteristics:

  • A privately owned corporation, perhaps with significant initial venture capital and the possibility of an IPO down the line, to assure yourself of operating and investment funds.
  • A focus on markets where incumbent providers (lawyers) are scarce and where potential customers are therefore underserved and plentiful (say, consumers and small businesses).
  • A range of affordable legal document assembly tools, accessible online 24/7, that can deliver extremely high-margin solutions to the basic legal needs of your customers.
  • A network of reliable local lawyers to whom your customers’ more complex legal matters can be referred, and for whom your brand and market reach constitute a powerful marketing force.

In other words, you might wind up creating something like LegalZoom.

There have been two distinct waves of foundings of alternative legal services providers (ALSPs): one from 1999 to 2007, including outsourcing companies such as Integreon, Axiom, Relativity, Consilio, Exigent, Pangea3 and Lawyers On Demand; and then another from 2010 to 2015, including the new wave of tech companies such as Neota Logic, Ravel Law, ROSS Intel and Kira Systems.

The gap between these two waves is likely due to the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2007–08 – as is, I would suggest, the second wave itself, which rapidly developed in response to the widespread demand for better value from corporate clients following the recession.

Yet today, according to the Thomson Reuters 2017 Alternative Legal Service Study, alternative legal services provision (“non-law-firms” basically) is an $8.4 billion industry worldwide – and that figure doesn’t include companies that make legal technology to carry out legal tasks, which is probably at least another couple billion and change. So we’re talking about a sector that has generated tens of billions of dollars over the last couple of decades, at least 1 per cent of global legal spend annually, from a standing start the year Titanic was released.

I think that’s pretty impressive. And like many people, I’ve not seen much reason why this sector couldn’t continue to grow just as fast in the years to come. Yet there’s at least some data out there to suggest that that growth has stalled recently. Why so?


A view from across the pond.

Remember all those ludicrous predictions you kept hearing about how law firms were some day going to invest heavily in intelligent technology that could do legal work? Funny thing about that: some day is today.

Here’s what’s actually happening, right now, with advanced technology in law firms:

In all the recent excitement over the the “brand” options, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, we sometimes forget that blogs started it all; equally, we can confidently predict that if unforeseen disasters were to befall social networking, blogs would be the last ones standing.

Continuing our series on social media for law firms, Jordan Furlong looks at the best ways that law firms, as corporate entities, can utilise Twitter.

In the third article in our series on social media for law firms, Jordan Furlong looks at the best ways that law firms can utilise LinkedIn.

In the first of a series of short articles on social networking for law firms Jordan Furlong explains below how firms can effectively promote themselves on Facebook.

Legal OnRamp describes itself as “a collaboration system for in-house counsel and invited outside lawyers and third-party service providers.” Launched more than two years ago by former Silicon Valley GC Paul Lippe, in conjunction with Cisco Systems GC Mark Chandler and other far-seeing corporate counsel, OnRamp is free of charge but admits members by invitation only.