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3 ways the practice of corporate law is changing

May 17, 2016 11:14:46 AM

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There’s no denying it, the entire business landscape is being changed by various factors, and corporate law is not immune from this transformation.  In the past decade or so, the rise of high internet speeds, collaborative business technologies and ubiquitous system access via the cloud have all combined to elevate the way deals get done in business - including the role and placement of corporate law in this process.  Here are three principal ways the corporate legal industry is changing to become more engaged in the process of business negotiations and contracting:

1. Models for business: The traditional legal practice model is one where the client retains a lawyer who charges on an hourly rate.  Client demands have led to many law firms and other companies offering alternative arrangements.  For example, UpCounsel, is a match-making website for lawyers and prospective clients.  Costs for services are kept low as lawyers operate independently, from their own offices and homes, and in this way overheads are reduced, if not eliminated, which previously would have been passed on to clients.

Other examples of alternative models are low cost service options provided by large law firms.  Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith Freehills and Ashust have created such centers in the UK while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have announced their plans to do so. Some firms have also created their own consultancy based models within themselves. Allen & Overy has done this with “Peerpoint”  while US West Coast firm Fenwick & West has done so with “Fenwick Flex” which provides options for emerging startup tech companies.

Companies such as Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer and Avvo have also invented models that allow the public to get access to legal information in alternative ways such as providing legal packets including templates and basic information for specific events or projects for a fixed price.

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2. Legal Technology:  Legal Technologies have been created that deal with many parts of practice that were previously tedious and menial.  In my recent article, “What parts of a legal practice can be automated” (http://ow.ly/4nqz6h), I provide examples of products that are revolutionalizing the way previously tedious and time-consuming tasks are being done such as document review, analysis and research synthesis.

Some of the most interesting technology is that which incorporates machine learning and natural language processing. For example, NexLP is a company working towards developing a product that identifies patterns in text and data to identify the story which needs to be told for a legal situation - i.e. automating the storytelling identification and creation component of legal practice.  Similarly, my own company, ContractRoom, also has a data analysis capability which in the future will use machine learning and natural language processing to predict the outcomes of negotiations - Predictive AgreementTM.

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3. New roles within legal practice:  There is such an abundance of legal technology that needs to be understood, properly implemented and adopted that firms and legal teams within corporations are dedicating specific roles and even teams to ensure this is properly managed.  Sometimes those in these roles are known as Legal Operations Managers. Some firms have even dedicated specific practices to innovating their businesses.  For example, Ashust has an international team called Ashurst Advance who’s role it is to investigate and implement the best innovation practices for their firm - not just in relation to technologby but also in relation to resources, processes and technology (http://ow.ly/4nqY5A).

So there are three ways that legal practice being transformed.  We would love to hear your experience.  Do you currently work in a law firm or alternative model legal services provider?  What ways have you experienced the transformation in law?

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For some more interesting reads on the status of legal practice today and where it is going refer to the following which I used in researching this article:

Responding strategically to the still changing legal landscape”, by Susan Letterman White - http://ow.ly/4nqBqE

Technology is driving force of legal shake up”, by Jonathan Ames - http://ow.ly/4nqD4t

‘Future-proofing’ the practice of law”, by Chad E. Burton - http://ow.ly/4nqZte

Reinventing your law practice: 25 tips on implementing change”, by Dr John W. Olmstead, Jr - http://ow.ly/4nqZCp

Katie Cook

Written by Katie Cook

Katie Cook is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Legal Standards at ContractRoom. Originally from the east coast of Australia, she has a background as an Attorney having practiced in both public and private practice in Brisbane and Melbourne. While working as an Attorney Katie completed studies in journalism and is now combining her legal and writing skill sets in her role at ContractRoom.

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