Jodie Baker, managing director and founder of Hive Legal, said the amount of activity and innovation in NewLaw was making it difficult for clients to digest the changes.
“In some ways it feels like a noisy landscape to me at the moment – there is so much going on,” she said.
“And that indicates progress – but it is almost difficult for clients to actually know what is going to be most beneficial to them.”
NewLaw players tend to experiment with different models, often blending technology with process-driven solutions and alternative pricing strategies, according to Ms Baker.
“It almost makes progress more difficult […] because there's so much going on that you can't get clear air to get the message across,” she said.
Fundamental changes to process, for instance, have swept through the industry affecting both NewLaw and incumbent firms, she continued.
However, unbundling, systematisation and outsourcing are not yet fully appreciated by clients for the benefits they can offer, said Ms Baker.
“It’s almost too much progress and too quickly for the clients to really make enough meaningful use of it,” she said.
NewLaw providers have shaken up the norms of legal practice. The next stage in NewLaw’s development is clients engaging with and understanding the new choices available to them, according to Ms Baker.
“We are not quite there yet,” she said. “We are showing clients what the options are; giving them those benefits in a meaningful fashion is next.”
‘NewLaw’ is a misnomer
Lumping alternative legal service providers under the single title of ‘NewLaw’ is problematic, according to Ms Baker.
“There is a danger when commentators create headings,” she said.
According to Ms Baker, the title of ‘NewLaw’ aims to capture a broad variety of different kinds of businesses.
These range from firms operating under a secondment model, such as Plexus, AdventBalance and Lexvoco, to legal process outsourcers, online lawyer registries or quoting services, full-service law firms such as Hive Legal that prioritise flexible arrangements and innovative pricing, and tech-driven businesses.
“And there is overlap between them obviously,” she said. “The potential market is hearing so many things, it just gets a bit confused.”
Peter Monk, a principal at Hive Legal, agreed with Ms Baker, saying: “I think there is a fundamental error to be had if you were to create two categories, one being traditional law and the other being NewLaw.”
In ‘OldLaw’ there is “one approach to doing things from end to end”, he said. This singular approach to business has been adopted by all law firms from the global top-tier level or at the very localised long-established one-office firm.
“In NewLaw, however, there are a multitude of completely different service offerings that are being offered by businesses that are relatively newly established but are doing things in a completely different way,” said Mr Monk.
“NewLaw is a very, very broad church of businesses that are servicing the legal sector but in different ways, and doing different things and they are often very, very niche.”