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Re Outsourcing the Wheel

To carry on my Vroom Vroom theme from a few months ago, I suggest that there are some more potential similarities between the legal and automotive industries. Talk of the “Law Factory” from thought leaders such as Ron Friedmann, has encouraged further consideration. At a high level, both industries have “benefitted” from protectionism, though it did neither industry a favour, long term.

The Australian Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM) website says:

There are about 200 Australian firms supplying components to the automotive industry. The vehicle assemblers have also undergone massive rationalisation and increasing global integration. Globalisation provides both threats and opportunities for the Australian industry. Many of the functions and operations of the vehicle assemblers have been passed on to the components industry. An intensely competitive environment means that car companies and suppliers must work more closely. … Motor vehicles draw upon the services of a wide range of industrial groups. Cars are made from plastics, rubber, glass, leather, textiles, paint, sealants, wood, and range of metals from aluminium to zinc.

Note their perspective: “vehicle assemblers” vs “car makers”.

While there are very few “vehicle assemblers” in Australia, and are all well known international brands, there are many more component suppliers.

On the other hand, there are a huge number of law firms in Australia nearly all of which “assemble” legal solutions. It is only recently that these have become household names, thanks to the influx of capital into international operations such as Slater & Gordon.

Very few legal firms will have any hope of becoming household names. Maybe some of the smaller ones can become “component” suppliers to the big legal brands, and most other firms. There has been some precedent for “assembling” legal service components. Consider what Australian’s call Conveyancing which is the transfer of real property. Indirect support services might include phone answering, document templates, bookkeeping and billing services. More specifically, for years lawyers have not hesitated to outsource more obvious “legal component” services such as title search, settlement, stamping and registration. Some now even outsource document production. There is not much left for the lawyer to do – except keep the matter on track and try to avoid problems. That is a risk that some lawyers believe is just not worth it due to intense price competition, and especially without effective automation.

In an ideal world there would/should be more systematising of legal services, which can lead to outsourcing, but most lawyers don’t do enough of a particular type of work to see a pattern. In the near future, legal powerhouses, and boutiques, will pick up on these patterns, and automate the processes or make outsourcing choices.

Not only must these legal service component suppliers make their offerings cheaper and better than if done in-house, they must also make them easy to integrate. For example, this is what one trade mark search provider says about conveniently integrating its service into your offering:

TradeMarkAPI offers world leading trade mark application software adapted for simple drop-in implementation on any standard website. Our trade mark application interface loads from the cloud offering intelligent cross class availability searching and intuitive classification from intuitive goods and service picking.

Legal business thought leader Jordan Furlong has been a longtime advocate of “convenience” being the next internet battleground.

While there are predictable commodity components such as mirrors, headlights and hub caps for cars, and searches, settlement services and document/form production for conveyancing, there is also potential for value-add services that can help sell the completed product.

… the production of cars and the cars themselves also require increasing amounts of input from such software based products as those that self tune the engine, or enable a computer controlled system that automatically adjusts the ride level of your car depending on load and driving conditions. (FAPM)

Fewer problems, and a smoother journey are what many lawyers try to offer, though such services are beyond the basics:

TrademarkNow says this about its more ambitious AI-based services:

The assessments of trademark similarity tend to vary from one person to another and sometimes even from one day to another. Comparing two different trademark candidates has been almost unheard of. Our technology is based on over a decade of academic research into general jurisprudence, AI and trademark law. Our products make it possible to compare trademarks objectively, enable intelligent risk analysis and create relevancy-ranked search results.

The hours spent on evaluating a traditional trademark search report are expensive. With our efficient technology, this time is reduced, and so we can pass the savings on to you. The prices for our core products are fixed, making them both competitive and predictable.

This suggests that a less experienced lawyer can provide a much better and cheaper analysis than before. It might even be comparable, if not superior, to that provided by a more experienced lawyer.

Most importantly, the last sentence contains two important words: prices & fixed. As car manufacturers/assemblers don’t charge for how long it takes them to build their products.

Clients will come to expect their trusted legal advisors assemble quality but affordable legal solutions. Better legal practice management system (PMS) providers will enable this process via their own AppStores. They should help their law firm clients be more successful.

Interestingly, TradeMarkAPI puts its “analytical” efforts into marketing for the lawyers, while the TradeMarkNow focuses on the trade mark itself.

The TradeMarkAPI advanced trade mark analytics lets you view where your leads are coming from, whether directly to your website, by referral or by Google Adwords.

The graph below shows these analytics, with the number of applications coming through the interface on one firm website for the month of July.

TradeMarkAPIGraph

It highlights the problem we all face that no matter how technically good you are, unless you can be found via the internet, you are less likely to thrive in the future. And TradeMarkAPI’s “white-label” approach makes it easy for every law firm to enhance the services they offer clients. It is what they call “client facing client conversion software”, as opposed to existing trademark search software which sits in the back office.

Such software raises the bar in terms of client expectations. However, the good news is that component providers can supply anyone, and in the case of TradedMarkAPI, can be added to your legal solution in a matter of minutes. Sure beats reinventing the wheel.

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Comments

  1. Simon, what I liked about this is your comparison between two different industries and how both of them can have diversities and at the same time, similarities. I also liked the graph you shared about TradeMarkAPI’s website and how it showed the importance of building an online reputation. There’s no doubt that any industry can actually benefit from “being found via the internet.”

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