If you think the legal industry’s future depends on small and big firms working together, you might be from MaRS. By MaRS, we mean the Canadian-based MaRS Discovery District (originally named Medical and Related Sciences) and its recent project to innovate the legal profession.
In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay interviews Aron Solomon and Jason Moyse, the co-founders of recent MaRS startup LegalX. Together, they talk about today’s transition from the big firm model of yesterday in favor of more nimble practices traditionally found in smaller firms and startups. Although there will always be a need for Biglaw on large, highly profitable matters, 80% of the U.S. market is priced out of legal services. That unmet need has become a primary driver in sweeping change to the legal industry.
So, what do these driving forces mean for the future of law? Monica, Aron, and Jason take turns answering that question with their forecasts of the legal market for the next 2-5 years. Not only will this near future continue to see big firms receding, but it will also usher in an era of innovation. Legal solutions made on one side of the globe will be solving problems on the other. Even more surprising, it is predicted that Biglaw will collaborate with small firms to produce more comprehensive offerings at lower prices. Tune in to hear more about the future of law as seen from MaRS.
Aron Solomon is the innovation lead at LegalX, a startup from MaRS Discovery District that specializes in connecting technologists, designers, engineers, and lawyers to drive innovation in the legal sector. Prior to that, he was ED at Ed, entrepreneur in residence at i.c. Stars, and co-founder and vision holder at SVBstance. In addition, Aron has served as Global Managing Partner at Futurlogic, CEO at Think Global School, and founder for The Mission Group.
Jason Moyse is the industry lead at LegalX, a startup from MaRS Discovery District that specializes in connecting technologists, designers, engineers, and lawyers to drive innovation in the legal sector. Prior to that, he was the manager of legal business solutions at Elevate Services, director of innovation execution at Cognition LLP, and director of service delivery at McCarthy Tétrault. In addition, Jason has been legal counsel and program manager to Xerox Canada.
Law Technology Now
LegalX Innovators from MaRS
Intro: You are listening to the Legal Talk Network.
Bob Ambrogi: Hello. I am Bob Ambrogi.
Monica Bay: And I am Monica Bay.
Bob Ambrogi: We have been writing about law and technology for more than 30 years.
Monica Bay: That’s right. During that time we have witnessed many changes and innovations.
Bob Ambrogi: Technology is improving the practice of law; all big lawyers deliver their services faster and cheaper.
Monica Bay: Which benefits not only lawyers and their clients, but everyone.
Bob Ambrogi: It moves us closer to the goal of access to justice for all.
Monica Bay: Tune in every month as we explore the new legal technology and the people behind the tech.
Bob Ambrogi: Here on Law Technology Now.
Monica Bay: Hi. I am Monica Bay and I have a terrific panel today for you. I am going to talk to Jason Moyse and Aron Solomon, who are both in Toronto, and I am just going to turn it right over to Aron to tell you a little bit about their organization and then to Jason.
Aron Solomon: So what do you want me to tell you, you want me to tell you about my background, I can do that in 25 minutes, that’s I think the time that we have today.
Monica Bay: Yeah, sure. Give me five minutes from each of you so that our audience —
Aron Solomon: I will give you much less than five minutes. So I don’t know, I have had the opportunity to do some really cool things in my career. I have been to China 56 times on business, lived in Beijing. I have traveled about 3.5 million miles, I think mostly kind of in the business of innovation and education.
I am Canadian; I am doing this call today from Toronto. I have lived in a whole bunch of places, and I guess luck and maybe some kind of more divine course led me back into the law after really not having done much in it. From the time I graduated law school until a couple years ago I was an entrepreneur, and I basically built a school that traveled all over the world, a really cool kind of experiment in global education. I have worked for a bunch of schools, done a lot of international consulting in the innovation space, and came to Toronto a few years ago after I left my startup in 2010, late 2010, and have done a bunch of fun things, not the least of which is building LegalX with my buddy Jason Moyse, who is on the other end of the call.
Monica Bay: Well, that’s a good chance for us to let Jason introduce himself and then we are going to talk about the launch just about a year ago, a little bit more than a year ago of LegalX and your involvement there.
Jason Moyse: Hi Monica, and thanks for having Aron and I on today. We are really pleased to spend this time with you. So my background, I have been in the legal space for my entire career. I started out as a commercial litigator and my practice was always sort of the high volume practice that had a lot of process to it. I did a lot of debtor/creditor, mortgage enforcement type work. And I was in private practice for about six years before I went in-house at Xerox Canada, and I was there for about six years as well and still doing a lot of litigating, but also of course managing outside counsel as well.
So, on that journey it gave me a pretty full perspective in terms of the legal industry and the path that a lawyer might take. The in-house environment and the private practitioner environment are two different things. Increasingly, they are coming together, and a lot of what I have taken an interest in the last couple of years is around efficiency, the increase of process improvement, project management, design thinking, all into the legal space where it wasn’t before.
And as Aron mentioned, for the last year or so, on top of my day job, which is with Elevate Services, Aron and I founded LegalX, and it has proven to be a really great way to blend all of those interests, including that wonderful fusion of startup, the burgeoning legal technology scene, and then of course corporate innovation, amongst both the in-house environment, but also among law firms.
Monica Bay: And it was about just a little bit more than a year ago when I met both of you when you were kind enough to invite me to speak at your launch party in Toronto. It was absolutely fantastic and I certainly became an immediate friend of all of you and very interested in, particularly in my role at Stanford, where at the Law School I am part of the CodeX Group, I am a fellow at CodeX, and I instantly saw that the goals we are doing in California are very similar to your goals, and in fact, immediately told all of you that that was what I thought.
Let’s go back to that period for a bit and tell us a little bit, not only about what you are doing with LegalX, but this amazing environment that you are in called MaRS.
Aron Solomon: So I will start by talking a little bit about MaRS. MaRS is a really amazing place. It’s a Massive Urban Innovation Center in the heart of downtown Toronto, with 1.5 million square feet of space, and MaRS works with about 1,200 startups.
So I ended up kind of on MaRS’ doorstep one day for a coffee. Someone who knew me from Twitter, she invited me for coffee, I met a few other people and I started to kind of volunteer there. And long story short, that was 2011.
So MaRS is all about like convergence innovation. And I think what that means for us in LegalX and for MaRS writ large is that what MaRS has been exceptionally good at doing is filling the gaps, filling in what we at LegalX like to call the in-between spaces.
So we approached the CEO about a year-and-a-half ago and said, we really feel that there’s an opportunity here to play in the legal innovation and technology space. It was a big risk on MaRS’ part to align with the work that Jason and I were already doing with the Legal Lean work that we were doing and a couple of conferences that we put on. But it didn’t take too long to convince people that we had a good sense of where the ball was going.
So, as you know, we launched just over a year ago, we launched last June, and I will kind of hand it over to Jason by saying, we have been absolutely shocked at our good fortune in the past year and how LegalX has absolutely boomed. We have worked so hard and have been so busy in the past year, but it’s a good work and it’s a good busy.
Monica Bay: And I do think that there is a lot of parallels, and I know that you are very active with Roland Vogl, who is the head of our unit. We are experiencing the same thing. We just finished our fourth annual conference, and I didn’t go to the very first one, but I have been to all the others and I just have this intense feeling that what both organizations are doing is almost expotential. It just seems — we were just standing room only this year, packed, and the energy and the drive, I just feel it in my bones. It’s so exciting for what both of our organizations are doing and there is so much interaction that’s possible with other groups that are starting as well.
I interrupted you, Jason, on to you to tell us a little bit more about it.
Jason Moyse: Well, I mean, to your point Monica, I have been at the CodeX Conference the last two years, and it’s actually been a lot of the springboard for some of what we have been able to do with LegalX.
As you recall, you and I met at CodeX last year amidst that conversation that led to your attending at our kickoff, which was a year ago, June 22. We also had a couple of other speakers that I met directly at CodeX, and that gave us a really good launch, because here in Canada we have got a burgeoning tech scene that’s for sure, a legal innovation scene which has really sprouted up, and CodeX has been a big part of that, because we have been able to recruit people to come and attend our events, be mentors to our startups, et cetera.
Including again this year I was really pleased to be on a panel at CodeX this year around the legal community building and also able to leverage being there and all those like-minded drivers, we were able to again recruit a number of folks that we are really excited about, that we are going to bring into the Canadian market, because these things have a tendency to operate as echo chambers a little bit and the Canadian market has a different view than say the US market.
So when we are able to bring in thought leaders and more importantly I would say doers in respect of successful entrepreneurs in the space, when we can bring them into the market, it really gives us a lift in terms of what we are able to do and demonstrate for both startups, as well as firms and corporates that are looking to drive innovation in this space.
Monica Bay: The other thing that we share is, which I want you guys to talk about also, which is that Thomson Reuters is involved with both of us. They just announced involvement with you guys that I want you guys to tell us about too, plus, one of the — I can never pronounce his name, it’s spelled Cian, but it’s not, so you guys can help me, he does Beagle, yeah, and he is now a Fellow at Stanford. So there really is a lot of back and forth, but let me throw that back to you in terms of your next step there.
Aron Solomon: Yeah, I will leave this for Jason, except that I will preface it by saying that it’s an absolute joy to work with all of our innovation partners. We work with a couple of very large law firms in Canada, part of the Seven Sisters Group. We work with McCarthy Tétrault and we work with Blakes. We also have a great partnership with the Canadian Bar Association and we are extremely proud of the work that we are doing at Thomson Reuters and they are a joy to work with.
Jason Moyse: Yeah, and I will just sort of add to that, at a pragmatic level what we are able to do both with and for and on behalf of Thomson Reuters, so Aron and I at this point through MaRS, we are attracting a lot of really interesting startups, including Cian from Beagle, but many others as well.
And so because of our market knowledge as well as the ability to sort of know what types of products and services are likely to gain traction, we have been able to do things with Thomson Reuters and our other partners as well.
Like as an example, curated sessions with the leadership team, where we bring in six or seven of the startups to discuss what they are up to, what their potential trajectory is, what their obstacles are. And to that end, when Aron says it’s a joy to work with the company, it really, truly is. We have seen them just announced in a room, it’s time we handed over funds to these types of startups that we keep seeing, and so we have seen that happen. That’s very exciting to see. Anytime you are able to acquire some funding for the startups, that’s exciting.
It’s also just sort of from — I hesitate to use the word thought leadership, but certainly from a conference perspective, we are very excited about what our combined efforts are going to amount to with Thomson Reuters, because we are going to have just some sensational people here in Toronto in September for a conference we are putting on with Thomson Reuters. And we are talking about the likes of really visible folks, not just in the Canadian market, not just in the US market, but internationally as well.
So we have got Dan Katz coming to keynote our event, we are looking forward to that; Karl Chapman from Riverview is going to be there; folks from eBrevia and a number of others. So it’s really exciting, not just to work on behalf of Thomson Reuters, but to be able to bring some synergy, like our combined networks, as well as outlook on the industry has made for some really interesting and compelling sort of content.
Monica Bay: Yeah, I think we need to keep a really big eye on Dan, because he is, for those who might not remember, he started up the renovate law process about two years ago, and he has moved from Michigan State and has just taken over a post in Chicago, and the synergy that’s going on with that alone is really interesting, because he is an amazing speaker and definitely someone to continue to watch. I think he is going to be a big, big player, and he is also affiliated with Stanford, so he is someone to watch, in my opinion.
Anybody else that you see that we really want to keep an eye on?
Jason Moyse: Well, Dan is really compelling to read and listen to, and there are others like Dan that are out there, including Bill Henderson from Indiana, who is also coming to Toronto in September. And I like to see all of those types of leaders because they tend to have a bird’s eye view on what’s happening on the landscape and you can sort of get a big picture perspective. But I am always really excited by the folks that are actually driving and formulating businesses in this space around all these concepts that we are really interested in around innovation and technology.
So Riverview is an example that gets trotted out. Of course here in Toronto, Kira, formerly known as Diligence Engine, getting a lot of traction and we are very proud to know as a good friend of ours, though not formally, within the LegalX Program.
And it is companies that tend to excite us, particularly those that are creating brand new businesses beyond just the legal advisory work that you would normally see being offered up from lawyers. I think it’s very exciting when there’s an entirely new line of business leveraging technology, filling a need in the market and not just relying on the traditional pyramid law firm partnership tournament, hourly billing type of model, there’s a lot of other legal services providers that are starting to hit the market and that’s what makes it a very exciting time.
Monica Bay: Yeah, and I think there is a couple of other things that are factoring in on that too. One of the things I am very excited about is what I call the Big Three; Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and LegalZoom.
I really see that arena shifting from where they were completely viewed as outliers and outlier just might be the wrong word, but they were just — I mean the ABA still is so afraid of them, it’s almost pathetic, but what they are doing and where they are going I think is something really to watch, all three of those are incredibly interesting organizations.
Another thing that we are doing at Stanford is we did a partnership right when I was leaving ALM, where I was the Editor-in-Chief of Law Technology News and we have done a series at the Legaltech West Coast and Legaltech New York, where we have done what we call lightning rounds, and it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek from Shark Tank, where you come in and they have about a three — depending on how many people, three to five minute presentation. And then there is judges, usually four or five judges and the process on that — we have just had standing room only on all of these; I think we have done it four times now.
And the value to the folks who are starting their businesses, it gives them a chance to, not only make their pitch and get exposure, but also to get feedback from the four or five judges who usually come from very different points of view, and the energy that’s come out of those has just been amazing, and you guys did a similar type of program for that when you did the launch.
For folks who might not be as familiar with this, tell us a little bit more about where you want to be like two years from now, five years from now, we have talked about a lot of things we are doing and a lot of things that I think are becoming very, very important for many different organizations, but is there any particular things that you want to see in the next two to five years?
Aron Solomon: So I want to see everything, and I am actually going to be that guy, even though Jason is going to be angry at me later on, but on the other hand, I haven’t sworn so far during this interview so I should get some points back for that, but I am going to actually say that LegalX, you talked a few minutes ago about who to watch, the industry should be watching us, because LegalX is going to be huge.
We are playing in all the right spaces. We got in at the right time. And I think that when you look at the background of experience and expertise between Jason and I, we are able to play in the industry in the way the industry needs, and we are also able to work equally well with the startups.
I always say, people have heard this — Jason has probably heard this a 100 times, but there are so many parallels between the legal innovation and technology area today and where I grew up in education technology a decade ago. So when things keep happening, it gives me the sense of déjà vu and it allows us to be a little bit ahead of where the ball is going. And I think that that’s been true with the kind of startups that we have been working with, with our success in getting them early stage funding, which, listen, in 2016, mid-2016, it’s hard enough for startups in any vertical to get early stage funding; ours have been very successful from investors around the world in getting funded.
So I think that while this remains a startup centric thing, moving forward it’s the ability to keep so many different industry balls in the air and get everybody playing together well that’s going to be the determining factor for success.
Monica Bay: Jason, what’s your view on this?
Jason Moyse: Well, I think you are going to see, and LegalX is a big part of this, increasingly you are going to see the, what I refer to as the David and Goliaths playing together, and there’s going to be increasing fusion sort of in the ecosystem way between small startups or small enterprises, they might not even be startups, they might be established mature businesses, but increasingly you are going to see plug-and-play parts in terms of the solutions that are offered in the market.
That means a law firm or a corporate legal department is going to do part of the work, smaller human capital-based firms will do other aspects of it, somewhere along the lines there will be a technology piece provided by someone that’s obviously made the technology.
And so I think the next couple of years are all about that collaboration, which doesn’t come naturally, particularly to law firms which have operated as a sort of the Coke versus Pepsi mentality for a long time, but the end users of legal services are increasingly seeking value and more and more you are going to see solutions that are multi-tiered.
The same way your computer is made up from all different kinds of providers, all part of the broader supply chain. So I think that’s going to continue, and I think where LegalX is going to play is as the facilitator and many times over sort of a conduit between the big guys and the small guys.
Aron Solomon: And the one thing that I would add to that, which we haven’t mentioned, but it’s got to go with saying is that, this is all entirely a global play. The idea that all of the solutions made for tomorrow are going to be made where big law sits isn’t the case. Things are going to be built in China for the global market. Things will be built in North America for the huge Chinese market. So being able to play globally is key, and half our startups are always international, about half our startups right now are North American.
Monica Bay: One of the areas that I think runs the risk of crashing and burning is big law, and there are so many nuances on this. As Aric Press, who is the head of ALM, Editor-in-Chief, he always says, and I think he is absolutely right that bespoke, as Susskind would say, the spoke is going nowhere. There’s always going to be a need for the very, very, very, very bet the farm, very expensive cases. They are not going to change.
But what I think is going to change dramatically is the stuff that isn’t bespoke, and we have seen firm after firm after firm crash and burn. And I really think that the models that James Sandman talked about in his keynote at CodeX’s FutureLaw Conference blew everybody out of the work, because the big picture is, there is a lot of problems in the structure and the approach of big law, it’s got to change, and tech is going to change and it’s going to make it better, faster, cheaper and transparent.
It’s truly a revolution, and I think what’s going on is so exciting and it has so much promise for access to justice at so many levels, it’s just such an exciting time, and it’s really thrilling to see the things you are doing, what we are doing at Stanford, and what many, many, many, many, as you said, folks are diving into this.
I know we are running out of time, let me — that’s sort of my mantra, what do you two each think about, what’s the most important thing for us to be doing right now?
Jason Moyse: I will take a crack at that. I think the most important thing to be doing is just that, the act of doing. As much as I love these conferences, as much as I love all the scholastic activity around it, the writing that Aron and I do, it is still — I sort of always make the statement that knowledge is kind of the booby prize. We still need a lot more application of what’s out there. We need people to be taking risks. We need people to be taking — going after an experimental approach. And of course, that’s where the advantage is for folks that are in the smaller enterprises or in startups that they have got a lot more agility to manage change or to go after new product development.
In terms of the large firms, certainly, you will get no push back from me on anything that you stated other than I would say, the law firms that Aron and I are lucky enough to work with, including others that we talk to, they all at least I would say at the leadership level know that they have got some responsibilities on all of those issues that you have just said, as well as an imperative, otherwise their firms are not going to survive.
So there’s nothing wrong with the brain of the large law firms. I think the leadership teams are enlightened. It’s really just — and no one is going to be surprised if they are to collapse, it comes from a long way out, but just because the mind is enlightened doesn’t mean the arms and legs can move in coordination.
So that’s going to continue to be the challenge for large firms, even when they have got the best strategies their legacies of culture, their legacies of less than state-of-the-art technology, that’s what’s going to slow them down.
Aron Solomon: And I am going to jump in as the voice of the entrepreneur, because one thing that big law thinks that it does well and the better they think they do it in an individual firm, the worst they actually do it, is work with startups and work with entrepreneurs.
There so many startup programs out there, very few of which actually work for the entrepreneur and work for the startup. And we have, as Jason said, great resonance with some firms in big law that want to work with LegalX and do work with LegalX, but on the other hand, there are those firms who feel that all of this is at best optional, that the wave of innovation, the wave of entrepreneurship will pass, and the really damaging thing about this is that a notion that’s not talked about enough in the law is intrapreneurship.
If you negate and discount entrepreneurship and people who innovate, then you are also negating intrapreneurship within your own firm and that’s going to hurt the firms more in the long run.
Monica Bay: Very, very good point. We have got to close, if each of you could tell our audience how to reach you, that would be great. Why don’t we start with you Jason?
Jason Moyse: I am pretty easy to find on Twitter. I am @jasonmoyse, feel free to ping me at any time. And my email, although not publicly broadcast, it’s pretty easy to find, it’s just [email protected] and I am always happy to hear from folks that are out there, and particularly those that are traveling this nontraditional path.
Monica Bay: Aron.
Aron Solomon: The only good way to reach me, because I can’t stand LinkedIn, I can’t stand the telephone, is through Twitter, #aronsolomon, reach out and find me.
Monica Bay: I love that. That’s fabulous. Well, it has been an absolute delight. You guys are fantastic. We could talk for hours and hours and hours, but we have run out of time. So I am Monica Bay and thank you for listening and we will see you on the next episode.
Outro: If you would like more information about what you have heard today, please visit HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com, subscribe via iTunes and RSS, find us on Twitter and Facebook, or download our free Legal Talk Network App in Google Play and iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.