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Comment: The Implications of the Uberisation of Legal Services

Added on the 19th Jan 2015 at 2:48 pm
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George Beaton’s first post of 2015 for Legal IT Insider highlights the implications of the Uberisation of legal services. This phenomenon is occurring as surely as is the Uberisation of most other parts of the services economy…

Late last year the London business press buzzed about a comment made to the Financial Times (paywall) by Maurice Levy, chief executive of global advertising group Publicis: “Everyone is starting to worry about being Ubered”. Levy was referring to the rise of the freelance economy as an increasing proportion of workers chooses – or is forced – to become self-employed as contractors.

Uberisation is not limited to driving taxis, renting rooms, and nursing. Of the professions, Uberisation is most visible in legal services because of the rise and publicity given to what we have dubbed NewLaw providers of legal services.

And it’s not just newcomers like Lawyers on Demand and Riverview Law in the UK, AdventBalance and Bespoke Law in Australia, Conduit Law in Canada, and Axiom Law in the USA that are Ubering. Large BigLaw firms are too – witness Peerpoint by Allen & Overy, Vario by Pinsent Masons, and most recently Orbit by Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Australia, to name some.

Implications of the Uberisation of legal services for individuals

Those facing the greatest uncertainty caused by Uberisation are the owners, employees and prospective employees of traditional law firms.

Most, if not all, contracted lawyers working under the auspices of one of the NewLaw firms are essentially self-employed with the freedom and positive challenges this brings. But they have no security of income, no superannuation, no permanent social work environment, no paid annual leave, no long service leave and, usually, no training and organised continuing professional development.

Especially for young practitioners there is no structured professional education program and no employer-provided training in the basics of practice. And certainly no apprenticeship – the foundation on which the next generation of the profession has been built for generations.

Implications of Uberisation of legal services for institutions

Uberisation is up-ending the status quo with inevitable implications for institutions such as universities, law societies and regulators.

The UK is now leading the world with ABS three years old with many ventures exploring Uberisation. In contrast, in Australia which de-regulated in 2007, it would seem many are not really tuning into the trend, let alone exploring the policy, service delivery and other implications. Canada and the USA with the ABA Commission have major enquiries into law under way, including some terms of reference to Uberisation – although not using the word!

The implications of the Uberisation of legal services are far-reaching and have the potential to be very positive provided all stakeholders engage and contribute.


* George Beaton, a partner in Beaton Capital and executive Chairman of Beaton Research + Consulting wrote this post. George is on LinkedIn and tweets at @grbeaton_law and @NewLawNewRules.


  1. Maureen says:

    Good points.

    The taxi industry could have innovated before Uber with apps to call a taxi, rate the driver, pay easily, with tip included, etc. The legal industry will have to respond to DIY and lightweight legal business models.

    To drive a car, while respectable work, is a different from the knowledge, experience and smarts needed to be an effective lawyer. Very good lawyers understandably command a premium for their work. Whereas it’s not clear whether Uber drivers earn more or less than taxi drivers. Anecdotal data is reported in both directions.

    The legal industry can (safely) take advantage of contemporary technology to be more agile and cost effective.

    Law firms are fortunate in that they can leverage their expertise and talent along with technology to continue to distinguish their businesses.

    • George Beaton says:

      Thank you for your comment Maureen. ‘Uberisation’ is a cute word and gets plenty of attention, as Maurice Levy no doubt intended it to – me too, truth be told.

      From my colleagues and my perspective, Uberisation is about [1] helping professionals do their work better, faster and cheaper (good for clients, ergo professionals – unless they are time-billing) and [2] substituting technology for professional labour (generally not good for traditional professionals).

    • Marina says:

      Outside of business transaction type law, people are often hiring an attorney because they have to, not because they want to, and the cost is typically prohibitive for the average person, is open ended, and, except in contingency cases, is not tied to outcomes. Granted it’s hard to manage the expectations and emotions of someone involved in litigation, however, if you have a loosing case, but you just don’t know it, it’s easier to swallow spending $10k on ala carte, than $100k on a full service attorney. Personally, I’ve had better outcomes in the cases where I self represented (with limited legal services), but I attributed that to my tenacity in sticking to a case, something which in impractical for someone running a LAW BUSINESS (if their client doesn’t have unlimited resources), where it’s more practical to settle early.

  2. Helen Burness says:

    An interesting piece. Halebury is a NewLaw firm; a team of senior in-house lawyers who provide flexible resourcing solutions for clients. Whilst our lawyers are self employed so they benefit from all the advantages that brings (flexibility, control over their career, choice as to which clients and what work they do) we also strive hard to create an environment and platform which makes them feel part of a cohesive team with regular meetings and socials for the lawyers to help develop relationships with colleagues in the team, support with training and CPD points and a management team who proactively work with them to shape their practice and feed through opportunities. Absolutely agree that contribution from the stakeholders is key to the success of any NewLaw business – its people are after all, its business.

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