23 April 2020

Disruptive business models to drive legal innovation

Published on 23 April 2020

Philipp Thurner has seen legal innovation go from non-existent to all anyone is talking about. Originally from Austria, Philipp moved to Australia eight years ago, when he commenced a career in the legal industry as an IT professional.

“Back then legal innovation was not really a thing,” said Philipp. “I was at the right place at the right time as a few years later, the industry started to shift towards innovation and digitisation. I was lucky to have seen the change from ‘no innovation’ to everyone talking about innovation to now firms finally doing something about it.”

Innovation possible only through major industry shifts

Philipp prides himself on having a small role in the shift towards legal innovation, having spent much of his career in an innovation or legal tech role.

“Innovation has opened up great opportunities for me,” said Philipp. “I was able to start a consulting business, work with firms around the world, work with legal tech start-ups and now even work on my own legal tech startup, NEXL. Without the big shift the industry has gone through and is still going through, this wouldn’t have been possible. My entire life in Australia is built around innovation. I’m super excited to see what the future of law brings.”

Opportunities around every corner

Philipp believes it’s an exciting time for the legal industry as more people commit themselves to make legal services more accessible.

“I see opportunities around every corner,” said Philipp. “These opportunities aren’t in the technology itself, but more in what people do with the technology.

“I’m personally most excited about developing new business structures to help firms deliver their services in new ways,” he said. Rather than big law firms employing thousands of lawyers, Philipp is interested in creating a more dynamic and distributed model.

“This would involve networks of lawyers with strong collaborative relationships. Because lawyers can deliver so much more using technology, the need for large headcounts is diminished.”

Prepare for disruptive business models

Philipp believes real disruption lies not in technology, but new business models and structures enabled by technology.

“Uber is a great example,” explained Philipp. “The technology behind Uber is not what disrupted the industry but the new business model. Of course, without the technological advances of smartphones and access to the internet, Uber, AirBnB and many other business models would not be possible. Technology plays a big role, but the important thing is what it enables us to do with it.”

In law, disruptive business models are most likely to come from boutique firms and new industry entrants who use technology to reduce headcount and connect with clients and lawyers around the world.

“These firms can deliver international advice to their clients and dynamically form teams around larger and complex legal matters,” said Philipp. “Many of the services they will offer will be delivered by non-lawyers. This model is dynamic, scalable and cost effective.”

 “Specialist firms founded by top tier partners with low headcount and a digital global network of ‘best friend’ lawyers will have a major advantage,” observed Philipp. “They can provide their legal services online, and thus will disrupt the industry from the bottom up. They will be able to outcompete most firms on price, speed, quality and customer experience. Most importantly they will be able to move quickly and adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.”

Embracing the evolution of law

Sharing information and insights is the best way to help the legal profession adapt to the opportunities offered by innovation.

“We have to help lawyers embrace change instead of creating fear around disruption or portraying innovation as a threat,” said Philipp. “Disruption is not a great word for this. Evolution is better. We are evolving all the time; evolution reflects positive change. Humans are tool builders and technology is a tool that amplifies our intellectual abilities. For lawyers this should be the best thing that ever happened to the industry and once we all start thinking this way, we are better prepared for whatever might come.”

For lawyers new to the profession, Philipp advises staying open-minded and willing to try new things.

“Don’t be afraid of failure,” said Philipp. “Educate yourself about technology. Don’t always listen to the media, who can blow things out of proportion and make technology sound like witchcraft and magic. Educate yourself about different technologies and you will see it’s not that crazy out there. It’s that simple.”

Philipp praised the Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) for its crucial role in aiding the legal profession’s adaptation to innovation.

“I personally believe the CLI is super important,” said Philipp. “Knowledge is power. The CLI helps equip legal professionals with the knowledge they need to be able to succeed today and in the future.”

Watch a free virtual demo of NEXL, presented by Philipp, and brought to you by CLI in association with the Lander & Rogers LawTech Hub powered by YBF Ventures.