Clearspire and a Future for the Practice of Law

Yes, lawyers are conservative. Yes, they’re slow to respond to social change. And yes, they’re by and large technophobic (ask any lawyer you meet about venerable RSS and watch their incomprehension).


Some innovate. Clearspire, a firm in DC, if it can be said to have a location, is one of the innovators, and a firm worth taking a look at. It’s almost tedious to count the ways in which Clearspire differs from Rumble, Bump & Stiltskin, but the Economist does its usual good job of summarizing matters. These are three of the highspots:

  • No billable hour. Instead:

    Clearspire offers cost estimates for each phase of a legal job. Employees who underestimate how long it will take cannot simply jack up the bill—they must take the hit themselves. But if a lawyer finishes his work faster than promised, he gets a third of the savings. The client also gets a third, as does Clearspire.

  • No central physical office, but regional centres and a powerful “best-in-class enterprise IT platform” [Clearspire] allows lawyers to collaborate and work from anywhere with clients located anywhere, and allows clients access to information crucial to them.
  • A corporate separation (necessary in the US) between practicing lawyers, who are employees, and a business structure that brings in business, meaning that clients aren’t paying for partners who do that but may not be contributing much to the solution of their problems.

Roam around their (unconventional) website to get a fuller picture. Or take a look at their promotional video below:

A final, and perhaps irrelevant thought: while I’m not an inordinate fan of law firm names that rely on partner names, I’m not a fan either of the “Clearspire” name. To me it sounds as if it were dreamed up by some ad agency after numerous focus groups… “clear” and “aspire” are too evident, too tendentious for me, at least.


  1. My reaction to the name was similar. Then I thought that must be the intended reaction. i.e. “That doesn’t sound like a law firm.” Yes, that’s because we aren’t like a law firm.

    Then, I realized what it does sound like: a cell phone company. So I’m back to not liking the name.

    Unrelated, was interesting to see The Economist using Drupal as their CMS, with no URL rewrites. Having /node/ in the middle of your URL strings seems very outdated technology wise for them.

  2. I really like the Clearspire website (though as an Information Architect there are Always things I’d change to make the UX just a little more useful, usable and engaging). I have recently been comparing the business models (and websites) of Clearspire and Axiom Law (, hence my interest in this posting – thanks Simon! Both seem eager to claim the ‘innovative’ approach to the practice (and business) of law, which is excellent news for the profession. Some of us have to be the pioneers – the rest follow or fall.

    And Steven – your comment about the name got me pulling out the tome I have just finished: James Gleick’s The Information? He refers to the “fading away of what might be called simple, meaningful names. No new company could be called anything like General Electric or First National Bank… Millions of company names exist, and vast sums of money go to professional consultants in the business of creating more. It is no coincidence that the spectacular naming triumphs of cyberspace verge on nonsense: Yahoo!, Google, Twitter.”

    Maybe they were both hoping for something likewise triumphant? Time will tell I guess.

  3. Hi Kate

    Good book, that Information by Gleick.

    It only occurs to me belatedly (“chagrin d’escalier”?) to acknowledge that Slaw is itself a peculiar name. But at least we’re not a law firm, and it doesn’t sound like the name of a phone company either. It may, however, verge on nonsense…