3 Flexible NewLaw Alternatives for In-House Counsel, SMEs and Start-ups.

There has been a lot of talk about NewLaw over the last few years, with many new legal service providers popping up under this premise. But what does “NewLaw” actually mean? And importantly, what are the alternative services it offers, that are different to what already exist – namely “BigLaw” or "Traditional Law" legal services?

In this article, we attempt to explain the concept of NewLaw and then outline possible alternative “people” models which fall under the umbrella of the NewLaw concept. Essentially, it all comes down to increased flexibility and innovation, designed specifically for the needs of the client.

What is NewLaw?

A lot has been written about "what is NewLaw?", suffice to say that it offers alternative legal solutions to the Traditional Law model. NewLaw service providers work with clients to create a working model which is completely tailored to the client – using flexible lawyers or legal consultants, innovative legal tech, simple and streamlined processes and importantly, up front fixed fees or alternative fee arrangements. Dr. George Beaton of BeatonCapital, a highly regarded commentator on NewLaw theory, offers further explanation of the NewLaw model here.

What are the NewLaw alternatives for legal support?

The NewLaw “people” alternatives, are based on using legally trained people to efficiently and flexibly fill needs in its team, normally on a short-term basis or for a set period. Legal experts may be needed to fill a temporary vacancy in the business, or a big matter has come through and more legal staff is needed but just for a specific project (deal or litigation), or the company may only need/have budget for legal counsel once or twice a week. It’s all about flexibility and creating the solution which works for the client.

Three of the key ways in which the NewLaw “people” model is currently being utilized in the market are:

1. On-demand lawyers/legal consultants: On demand lawyers/consultants are best utilised where an in-house legal team or business requires support for specific projects, maternity or other leave cover, head count freezes, new market entry or new regulation compliance support. Lawyers or consultants assist to fill any gaps and ensure business continuity.

2. Virtual General/Legal Counsel: Many start-ups or SMEs have a limited legal budget, or don’t require permanent resources. Virtual legal counsels are a cost-effective way to assist on an ad hoc basis, part-time or as a package deal (i.e. 20 hours of advice for a set price on a “as required” basis). Virtual resources also assist to reduce travel costs especially where legal work is required for a team who travel internationally frequently.

3. One-off matter support: Lawyers or consultants can be used by clients for their one-off matters. This could be M&A transaction support, structuring of investments, business set-up, technology projects or disputes and contentious matters.

Who are the NewLaw “people”?

Briefly, it is important to note that the people who are working with NewLaw service providers are highly talented legal professionals – normally with many years of private practice and/or in-house experience under their belt. The workforce has changed and people are now demanding more flexibility in their working lives. The NewLaw model not only offers alternatives to clients, but also to people. We discussed the rise of the “Gig Economy” and the demand by professionals for more flexible working arrangements in a previous blog, The Gig Economy: Attracting Top Flexible Legal Talent.

Adopting a NewLaw “people” approach

The key point to remember when considering NewLaw solutions, as a client is that YOU drive the discussion. NewLaw comes with promise of flexibility and innovation. Also, given the lean, low-overhead model, at a much more competitive cost and value. It should never be restricted by existing models, never a “this is what we have – like it or lump it!” attitude. NewLaw service providers aim to constantly evolve their services to make sure that it is the most effective and cost-efficient solution for the client.

But NewLaw is not all about people... we haven’t even touched on new LegalTech in this blog. Next time!

Annalise Haigh