Duncan Anderson: You’ve said you really care about “building a company where every team member can bring everything they are to work”. Are you able to elaborate on this, how you do it & the key benefits it brings to the company and employees?
Lachlan McKnight Traditional law firms are all about ensuring team members conform to the norm. Everyone wears a uniform. A strict hierarchy is respected and enforced. If you’re a bit different you hide your true self so you can move up the ladder. People who are a bit quirky, don’t like authority, are independent etc… don’t do well in that sort of environment, but they can be really great team members. So we deliberately try and ensure people feel comfortable being themselves at work. It means we end up attracting really good team members who wouldn’t fit into a traditional environment.
Niki Scevak Why does nearly every lawyer at large law firms dislike their job? What are the most common sources of discontent and why do you think this has so consistently happened in the past few decades?
Lachlan McKnight I don’t think that’s really true. Quite a few lawyers at big law firms do like the job; they’re in the main the people who end up as partners! Working in a big firm is pretty tough though. Very long hours, lots of hierarchy, sometimes not a huge amount of fun. I think it’s down to the business model. The model is basically set up to extract as much annual profit as possible out of the business to pay out to partners. There’s not a huge focus on the long term (i.e. making it a nice place to work). That’s why different NewLaw models are getting traction and finding it pretty easy to attract great lawyers — being a lawyer can actually be pretty nice if you’re working in a nice environment.
Ben Hartney What do you think is the future of AI-powered legal services? Was the recent success of the parking ticket bot a significant milestone?
Lachlan McKnight I definitely think there’s a huge opp in the AI/ Machine Learning space. We’re launching a startup bot soon, and are working on machine learning for commercial lease reviews. I don’t think lawyers jobs will be replaced at all, but some of the grunt work will be done by software.
Niki Scevak There have been many attempts at building a marketplace of lawyers. Describe your thoughts on whether a marketplace actually makes any sense and the discovery you have gone through over the years in terms of the right way to think about the structure of a service that customers love?
Lachlan McKnight I don’t think a legal services marketplace makes sense. We actually ran a marketplace before we flipped to the law firm model. The unit metrics didn’t work that well, but the biggest issues were (i) was the variable quality of the lawyers and (ii) the inability to control the whole customer experience. If you look at Uber there’s only so much variance possible in the service and if your ride is a bit unpleasant (driver smells or something) it’s not a massive deal. Legal’s just not something you can screw up even once, but with a marketplace you can’t guarantee the quality. The other big thing is the customer experience. Law firms are traditionally very bad at this, but if you’re not supervising how your lawyers interact with clients (which a marketplace doesn’t) you can’t ensure that each and every customer will get a great experience. The one benefit of a legal marketplace is you don’t have the high overheads (i.e. salaries of lawyers) that a law firm has, so the bottom line doesn’t suffer if you have a low revenue month. We’ve dealt with this by focusing on growing by 5% month on month, which means we are rarely under capacity.