future of law

In the course of our work as consultants in the legal market we have a chance to meet many interesting and talented people who are spurring innovation and driving market transformation. Mark Cohen is one of the standouts in this category. He is one of the most insightful people we know when it comes to the U.S. legal market. You can follow Mark’s blog, Legal Mosaic or read his posts on The Social Law Firm where we republish them from time to time.

After a long and distinguished career in private practice, Mark has also received recognition in the last few years for his role as a co-founder of Clearspire – the tech platform company and upstart law firm that set out on a bold course to transform the practice of law. Mark and Clearspire had served as a key source and inspiration for us in developing our concept of the Social Law Firm. In fact, in the course of research for our book, as we looked at what dozens of leading law firms were doing with social business technology, Clearspire struck us as light years ahead of the pack, largely thanks to the Coral technology that Mark and his former business partner Bryce Arrowood had designed and developed. Coral basically provided the foundation on which the law firm had been constructed, serving as the means for assembling a full service firm without need for maintaining a traditional bricks and mortar infrastructure. It was a platform technology that enabled collaboration between the lawyers, from whatever location they happened to be working, and connected them in seamless fashion with their work product, desktop resources, their colleagues and clients. In short, it seemed to offer us a glimpse into the law firm of the future, where virtual legal teams could be assembled in an ad hoc fashion; where organizational and process intelligence could be built into the practice platform.

We were so impressed we wrote up a case study of Clearspire and intended to make it the centerpiece for our book profiling the firm as an important step in the road forward for the profession. But then, just as we were about to sign off on the final page proofs, we received word from Mark that Clearspire technology was on the verge of being sold and the law firm closed down. Needless to say, this caused us to revise our publication schedule and ended up sparing us some potential embarrassment as the better sort of business gurus that we hope to be. But that was the least of it. We were disappointed to see such a bold law firm experiment end so abruptly. Once again, as so often seems to happen in the legal market, the future was being postponed.

The ostensible reason for the closure of the law firm, as Mark explained it to us, was the high level of continuing expenses necessary for the development of the technology platform. These development costs would have placed a strain on any early stage start-up, but they were even more problematic in conjunction with the start-up law firm, which needed enough cash to pay fair compensation in order to attract the right legal talent. So in a sense, bold as Clearspire’s vision may have been, the business plan may have been overly ambitious by burdening the start up law firm with the start up tech company’s additional up front expense.

All of which is by way of explaining why we are very pleased to hear that Mark has now joined the senior management team at UnitedLex, which is one of the leading players in the field of eDiscovery and legal services outsourcing. We think this is a great fit, and there is no telling what sort of future innovations might result from combining Mark’s insights into the market with a well-established and well-funded legal supply chain integrator like UnitedLex. For those of us who are keen to see the transformation of the legal market continue apace, this is good news as another piece in the new legal services paradigm seems about ready to fall into place.

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