At last year’s practicelaw Conference, we focused on the ‘Deltal Model’ of lawyer competence, an idea developed in part, by our keynote presenter, Alyson Carrel. Under this model, our professional competency is critically informed by three realms: legal knowledge (of course!) but also by a firm grasp of business fundamentals and personal effectiveness. This year, we’ll try to ‘operationalize’ this model by building a handful of ALSPs.
Alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) leverage niche expertise and technology to support law firms, legal departments, and consumers with services not conventionally associated with law firm operations (i.e., data analytics, electronic discovery, document review, compliance, contract lifecycle management, etc.). Growth in this area have some saying maybe we should drop “alternative” from the label. This is especially so considering growth among ‘law firm captives.’ Take, for example, BakerHostetler, whose IncuBaker ALSP rounds out the firm’s legal service. In April, Karen Lowery, IncuBaker’s lead, said:
“[W]e have client relationships already developed through legal services, and if we really want to understand clients, we are going to have to understand their operations as well. IncuBaker is almost a mirror image of a legal operations department in a law department. We're dealing with data, we're dealing with automation, we're dealing with processes, and it makes sense to help fill clients' needs as a consolidated unit, meaning you have legal services and you have IncuBaker's services to help with the operations side.
ALSPs also serve the consumer market. LegalZoom falls into this category. While a service like LegalZoom might be reviled within the profession, some states are nevertheless permitting businesses like these to deliver legal services. The practice of law in Utah is now governed under two separate regimes; traditional firms and lawyers are governed by the Utah Bar while non-traditional providers are now governed by the Office of Legal Services Innovation. Under a new risk-based regulatory scheme, the Utah Supreme Court has so far approved 27 entities to deliver legal services even though each includes some level of non-lawyer participation. Approved entities include the likes of Hello Divorce, Rocket Lawyer, Holy Cross Ministries and a partnership between the AAA Fair Credit Foundation and Peoples Legal Aid. Several other states are considering similar programs.
Whether it’s a captive entity or a consumer service, ALSPs are taking lawyers to places they haven’t gone before; namely, new markets where demonstrated proficiency in each leg of the Delta Model is critical. Are you (are we…) prepared to take advantage of these markets?
Build an ALSP
At this year’s practicelaw conference, we’re challenging teams of 2-5 players to draft a business pitch for an ALSP. See my.mnbar.org/build. Teams will be judged on the following:
- Creativity: Can you inspire our judges? Yes, that’s quite subjective but think of our judges as your prospective investors. They’re not, but you know what we mean. This will be a friendly ‘Shark-Tank’ style presentation.
- Definition of the Market: Who are you trying to serve and how are they paying for your services? Extra points (whatever that might mean) will be awarded to teams who identify how underserved markets might benefit. Think, ‘eviction crisis,’ for example.
- Clearly Defined Business Plan: There’s an element of fantasy here but, how do you intend to deploy your service? What specialized expertise, technology, and personnel make your services deliverable?
- Outline of Regulatory Hurdles: You may draft a Utah-style proposal. You won’t be dinged if your proposal doesn’t conform to the Minnesota Rules so long as you identify the need for a rule change and briefly outline how a rule change safely benefits Minnesotans.
Prizes will be awarded. More on that latter. The conference runs November 8 – 12 but teams may begin building at any time. Register at my.mnbar.org/build.