Private capital is beginning to flow into companies that are operating at the intersection of the delivery of legal services and the Internet.
Total Attorneys, a Chicago-based company, just announced that they received a multimillion dollar investment from BIA Digital Partners, a Virginia-based venture capital firm. Total Attorneys is most known for the marketing services that it provides to law firms and the recent ethical controversy in some states surrounding the use of pay-per-click advertising on behalf of law firms. (Apparently this controversy has been resolved in favor of Total Attorneys in every state where it was considered by bar ethics committees.)
The company plans to extend its technology assisted services to law firms by expanding its virtual law firm Software as a Service offerings (SaaS). Total Attorneys mission is to become a leading provider of elawyering Services to solos and small law firms by providing a comprehensive suite of outsourced technology services, from marketing to web-based practice management tools to a robust client portal.
The company licenses virtual law office technology to solos and small law firms as a subscription service, that now consists primarily of a robust suite of "back-office" practice management tools. The pan is to expand the service into a more comprehensive "front-office" client portal, providing a total solution to solos and small law firms.
This expansion would entitle the company to claim that it is a leading provider in the eLawyering space and it would compete more directly with our own DirectLaw virtual law firm platform service and other web-based companies moving in the same direction. [ See: Legal Vendors Cloud Computing Association ] .
The concept of "technology-assisted service" is an interesting category for the legal industry for it describes a form of outsourcing which combines both a digitally-based service combined with human service. Thus Total Attorneys also provides "virtual receptionist services", and at one point virtual support services to bankruptcy law firms. One management solution for solos and small law firms it to out source to independent specialized companies functions which can be done more effectively and at less cost than the law firm can do itself using internal resources.
It is good to see competition heating up in the eLawyering space, which has been moribund for a long period of time. The eLawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA was created in 2000, more than a decade ago. For many years there was not much to report in terms of the innovative delivery of on-line legal services by law firms. The last 2 years has witnessed an explosion in elawyering industry developments as lawyers adapt to change -- caused by a severe recession, widespread unemployment of recent law school graduates, and the challenges created by consumers who are seeking lower-cost and "good enough" alternatives to lawyers, [such as LegalZoom.]
Competition among a variety of vendors provides choices to law firms. Competition focuses attention on the fact that delivering legal applications as a SaaS is emerging as a new paradigm for enabling solos and small law firms to access complex Internet technologies at a fraction of the capital cost of developing these applications internally. Private capital moving into the legal industry will create more choices for law firms, and as a consequence more choices for consumers.
Creative legal outsourcing will enable solos and small law firms to become more productive and survive in an increasingly competitive environment.