Corporate law functions perennially experience chronic shortfalls between the capabilities they have and the ones they need. Meeting these shortfalls requires Legal capability increases at scale. But, as illustrated by Microsoft’s / Jason Barnwell’s experience described in Part I of this two-part series, most law firms resist cooperation with “law companies” or “alternative legal services providers” who provide the software, data analysis, and business process expertise needed to do routine, recurring “process work” (or “efficiency work” as Elevate Services’ Liam Brown refers to it below) at-scale.
Elevate Services is an outlier among U.S.* legal services providers which has organized itself to offer corporate clients both (1) legal advice of licensed attorneys like that found in a traditional law firm, and (2) software, data analysis, and business process expertise offered at the high standards offered by law companies or alternative legal services providers.
The result: Elevate Services offers its corporate clients at-scale responses to skyrocketing legal and regulatory demands at lower cost, greater speed, and greater accuracy than a traditional law firm can offer.
This Matters to Your Business
For decades, attorneys’ ethics rules in the U.S. have prohibited law firm ownership by persons other than licensed lawyers (except in Washington, D.C.). But in 2020 Arizona became the first state to officially allow non-lawyers to co-own or invest in law firms.
Late in 2021 the Arizona Supreme Court granted Elevate Services authority to both practice law and provide law company / alternative legal services offerings in software, data analysis, and business process expertise.
Multiple disciplines — including licensed legal advice — combined under one corporate structure.
Here’s how Elevate Services’ chair and CEO Liam Brown describes the client need:
“Imagine a chess board of 64 squares … Customers would ask us to perform work [that] required the capabilities that we had on 63 of those squares. It could have been our software … our data scientists, … our business consultants, … our understanding of their business … our process expertise.”
“We would fill 63 of these  squares, but if there was even just one square that required the restricted [licensed] practice of law, we’d politely decline and point them back to one of their law firms.
“When [these customers] spoke to their law firms and suggested they unbundle the work that required the law firm capabilities on that one square … and work with Elevate or their preferred law company for the other 60 squares on the efficiency work, customers would be frustrated.”
“They would come back to us and say, look, for something that we would pay Elevate $300,000 for, we end up to paying our law firm $1 million for working traditionally ….”
“We started to hear a bit of a drum beat from our customers, especially our biggest customers, saying:’ If you really want to help us you need to solve this problem, Elevate. And offer the restricted [licensed] practice of law as a part of a seamless solution [alongside systems disciplines like software, data analysis, and process expertise].'”
Both Part I‘s description of Jason Barnwell’s efforts on behalf of Microsoft, and the description above of customer frustrations that led Elevate Services to secure authority to combine traditional law practice with software, data analysis, and process expertise, relate to the same dilemma:
Given the billable hour’s dominance as a business model, the typical law firm wants their own lawyers — not a modern automated system — to do the recurring, routine “process work” (or “efficiency work” as Elevate Services’ Liam Brown calls it) related to their client’s legal or regulatory compliance.
Law firms understand that maximizing their time charged to the client — versus increasing Legal’s capability at-scale — are mutually inconsistent goals.
* For clarity, Elevate Services has a law practice that combines licensed legal services (like a traditional law firm), integrated with software, data analysis, and process expertise (like an “alternative legal services provider” or a “law company”) located in the UK as well as this new one in Arizona.