Jason Moyse: Manager, Legal Business Solutions
#BakersDozen is a series of interviews with leading professionals in the fields of law, consulting, finance, tech, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in the legal business?
I started as a commercial litigator with a high volume practice focussed on debtor/creditor law, loan and asset recovery and mortgage enforcement. I spent my first six years in private practice and the next six as in-house counsel. Since 2012 — I have been pursuing the alternative career path of legal innovation and continuously pushing past my comfort zone!
What do you do for a living right now?
I very happily spin a few plates at once. I am pleased to be part of Elevate Services, a next generation legal service provider that helps law firms and corporate legal departments with practical ways to improve efficiency, quality and outcomes. I serve as Manager of Legal Business Solutions supporting clients with legal project management knowledge, software support and consulting in respect of lean process and change management.
I also work on behalf Law Made — a brand developed with my business partner which is focussed on the “makers” in the legal innovation space with a particular emphasis on supporting legal entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. We’ve helped raise millions in capital for startups, provided product development and client acquisition strategy and put on some industry leading events centred on legal innovation. We work with makers, firms, corporates, law schools and bar associations to improve or create new products, services, processes and business models related to legal services.
What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
As an in-house lawyer, I was able to deliver the holy grail of converting from a pure cost centre to a profit based function. During my tenure, the legal spend was reduced 60% while financial recoveries from litigation and post write off activities were increased 100%. By returning millions back to profit as a lawyer — I became very popular with the leadership team! These days—my fulfillment comes from helping others succeed whether it’s bringing legal project management programs to life inside law firms, assisting corporate departments to embrace innovation or helping startups convert paid pilots to multimillion dollar contracts. It’s also a thrill keeping an entrepreneur in the game by helping to elicit venture capital for important growth initiatives which hopefully lead to new offerings in the market and creation of jobs.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
There can be little doubt that the industry is changing and that in itself is a victory given how long the status quo was able to prevail. It depends on your perspective — but from the client point of view — it’s never been better as the bargaining power has shifted away from providers to where it belongs — on the buyer side. It’s also the most exciting era ever if you have a mindset skewed toward innovation, entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship. Pure skeptics are always going to be out there — but those aren’t generally the builders and agents of change. If you liked the way things were for the last 50 years — you are likely pretty uncomfortable these days. In other parts of the industry, we are definitely going in the wrong direction. The cost to pursue law school and process to become certified are untenable.
It’s the most exciting era ever if you have a mindset skewed toward innovation, entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship.
You’re known for innovation and have been an inspiration to many. Who inspires you – and why?
I love value creation where it did not previously exist. While the efficiency imperative prevails and there is much improvement to be made to current processes, models and offerings — I get excited by new businesses and products. For example, I am a board member of a company that assists with finding trapped financial value by pulling together the digital assists of an individual after they die so they can be included in the estate. That’s not just banking and brokerage accounts — but all kinds of other areas that could have credit balances including gaming accounts, retail and other digital platforms. That’s a business that would not have existed even 5 years ago.
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
Forget about the associate to partner path and expectation that a linear trajectory within a law firm is the ideal. If you can mix a growth mindset, technological skills and law degree — you can carve your own path rather than lose your life to choices controlled by others. Truly, this is the era where ‘employment’ is completely redefined and dealing with uncertainty is the greatest strength one can foster. The rewards are many for those that don’t allow themselves to be crippled with anxiety over risk and an unrealistic hope that there is a neatly laid out path to success.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
Law is no different than any other business, professional service or not. Perhaps there is a slower rate of adoption, but AI for example, is everywhere and law is not an exception.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
Honestly, ten years is just too far out to say anything credible about what things will look like. The iPhone has only been around since 2007 and yet it’s hard to remember life before that. The industry will look very different and that is about as bold a prediction I could make other than the partnership model of law firms for the delivery of legal services will wane considerably. I would also say that the current rise of legal operations professionals (not just lawyers) is going to continue. If I were to put my boldest prediction forward — it would be that lawyers will not be the centre of the legal world as other allied professionals and collaboration among multi-disciplinary teams will be more prevalent.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
It is but one factor — and not necessarily the most important among many. Everything needs to be addressed in context and with timelines that provide the best insight for taking actions toward desired outcomes. In litigation for example, the focus on win/loss rate at trial is nothing short of useless as it covers only 3% of all matters and doesn’t address settlements which are private and confidential elements. Drowning in data does not quench the thirst for meaningful knowledge to guide strategy.
Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
It’s a guild and one that is not market connected. We’ve tried the regulatory route to ‘protect the public interest’ and it is not working with 85% of legal services needs going unmet. It would not get worse by allowing non-lawyer ownership because that is close to impossible! A lot of firms and certainly lawyers would no doubt suffer from increased competition which would be the inevitable result of opening up market forces including capital from outside investors. Protected industries which are insulated from competition and substitutes are artificially buoyed and it’s the end user and general ecosystem that misses out. Prices would go down and value would go up — but perhaps not the standard of living for lawyers who fail to become more entrepreneurial.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
This is the era of professional legal operations with a greater emphasis on metrics, lean process, and standardization. Organizations like CLOC which are driven by the buy side will impact outside providers as well as the increasing trend of insourcing work. It can only be clients that cause the needle to move and that means pulling work away from the traditional providers who refuse to think and act more strategically in terms of value from legal spend.
It’s time for law as a self regulated guild to be opened up to real competition from other types of models, technologies, professionals and in general, new entrants that can fill gaps where regulation has failed miserably.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
The profession, in many respects, has been a perpetuated self delusion of interested parties. Law is a very fragmented set of markets — but this idea of being above commercial concepts, market forces and consumer styled delivery has held back most progressive change. It is a business at most ends of the market except those that do the real work of social justice, criminal, human rights and other public good services protecting the most vulnerable members of society. Those are the true professionals in terms of ethos. So the profession will always be around — but let’s not get carried away by suggesting that driving transactions and litigation on behalf of corporates is some kind of ordained calling. It’s a service which is usually delivered by highly skilled players who have a unique set of knowledge and experiences. Fighting for human rights is not the same thing as negotiating terms and conditions for a contract. One of those things matters more than the other when it comes to the betterment of society—but pays significantly less.
What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
The lawyer mindset has been empirically measured as low in resilience and risk taking and by my own observation — there is a very misplaced sense of self importance among lawyers especially in relation to the (more technically) skilled players that are increasingly part of the solutions being required by clients. It is not a generational divide in my view as I am continually startled to find young people in the business that look, sound and act no different than those that are significantly more senior without questioning the way things operate. I also find it startling that lawyers don’t seem to feel the need to upgrade their knowledge of technology, numeracy or mastery of communication beyond the written word.
However, the greatest challenge is that the industry is still not a meritocracy as evidenced by the prevailing underrepresentation by gender, racial and socioeconomic background.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the sector looking forward?
Even with the current regulatory environment — the opportunity for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and lawyerpreneurs is at an all time high because end users are ready for solutions that look and feel like the offerings they use in other parts of their lives. Only a fool walks into a beautifully adorned office and walks away impressed by the furniture. Clients pay for that! The go forward for the sector is based on results, efficiency and measurable outcomes and the conservative nature of the providers of legal services is the opportunity for the more fleet footed and innovative who are prepared to treat clients with 21st century approaches.
Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future?
Trick question. Regulatory frameworks rarely help any market connected service past a short timeline. The idea that we can regulate our way into or out of any particular situation is silly. It’s time for law as a self regulated guild to be opened up to real competition from other types of models, technologies, professionals and in general, new entrants that can fill gaps where regulation has failed miserably.
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
Clients. Clients. Clients.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Or what would you do differently?
I have been conscious that I am in fact of the last generation that could get through law school without a crippling amount of debt. If I had to pay the price of those entering today — it would be a non-starter. The ROI on law school is simply not great given the ‘risk’ of a much more uncertain market with diminishing roles for those in the early stages of their career.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
Not if it’s a partnership! However, under a corporate model — then perhaps — but it would have to have sound professional management, retained earnings and allied professionals treated at par or better than the lawyers depending upon their contribution. The idea of lawyer partners being the highest paid members of the organization would not necessarily be the case under a corporate model with offerings that merge technology lead solutions beyond mere strategic advisory. There has to be products and services with recurring revenue beyond transactional work or one-off advice to clients. It’s not enough to be a subject matter expert for hire on appointment or as needed.
A lawyer and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Jason is Manager of Legal Business Solutions on behalf of Elevate Services – a next generation legal service provider helping law firms and corporate legal departments improve efficiency, quality and outcomes through consulting, managed services, technology and talent.
This interview reflects the opinions of the author, and not of their affiliated organizations, or of High Performance Counsel