Hacking the legal marketplace

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I missed this story when it first came out in May, so I’m now belatedly noting a new talent recruitment company called Bohire. Its business model is simple: every time you successfully suggest a person who lands a job with a company, the company will pay you a reward in the hundreds or the thousands of dollars. The more important and high-paying the job, the greater the reward you earn. Companies already look to their own people for recommendations of lateral hires; Bohire has basically turned that personal reference system into a Web 2.0 application.

Read this report and that one for more details, including the fact that some of Bohire’s clients are law firms: one of the big national outfits here in Canada, along with some smaller Toronto boutiques. At the moment, these firms are using Bohire to recruit legal assistants and law clerks. But if these hires work out — and so far, they seem to be — how much longer do you figure it’ll be before the firm starts hiring lawyers this way? And how do you think that will go over with legal recruiters, many of whom currently charge 20% or 30% or more of the position’s annual salary for a successful placement?

I wrote earlier this week about a “process revolution” underway in the delivery of legal services, but it’s more widespread than that: it’s affecting the whole law industry. Legal publishers are under siege by bloggers; legal research providers are being challenged by cheap or free case law sites; legal recruiters are having to cope with Bohire and its soon-to-come competitors. One of these days, the open-source movement is going to get around to the legal software industry, and that’s going to do to established software makers approximately what Google is doing to Microsoft.

And really, I used the wrong word. It’s not a revolution; it’s a hackfest. The legal industry is being hacked, just like the recording industry before it and the movie industry right about now. If you’ve ever visited Lifehacker, you know what I mean by hacks: shortcuts, productivity tricks, efficiency and convenience improvements that straighten and smooth out unnecessary obstacles. Third parties are hacking their way into the law’s traditional seller-buyer relationships to set up new efficiency shortcuts, perspective windows and alternative resources. Crowdsourced legal recruitment is just the latest example.

The traditional constructs of the legal industry — many of the products and services offered by and to lawyers —  are being deconstructed and rebuilt along 21st-century lines. Pay close attention to any tremors in the ground on which you’re standing.

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One Response to “Hacking the legal marketplace”

  1. J Goodwin

    A hackfest indeed. Legal recruiters (even those with strong web presence) are wildly inefficient.

    At NextLex, we’re building a slightly similar approach to turning a social network into a recruiting tool, but I wouldn’t say we will compete directly. To be brief, we’re building a community focused on empowering recent grads, law students, solos and small firms.

    Our initial task is to provide a much needed solution to the growing surplus of recent graduates from an ever expanding list of law schools. For many, there’s the prospect of going solo without much in the way of practical skill set development acquired during law school; or taking on contract assignments, which for the present don’t provide much in the way of substantive experience. By bringing recent graduates and law students together with solos and smaller firms, we aim to facilitate more meaningful formative legal experiences, deliver useful practical and substantive content, and provide fora to enable increased information sharing.

    As you mentioned with Bohire, if the initial premise rings true, there is no telling all the unintended consequences that should follow.

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