The beginning, not the end

The beginning, not the end

Spare a thought for London’s black-cab drivers – they recently took to the streets to protest against Uber, the mobile phone app that has had many a brush with the law since it was founded, five years ago. At the very heart of Uber’s business model lies the answer to a legal question: is the app a taxi meter or not?

The black-cab drivers’ main contention against Uber is not only that the regulators should call a spade a spade, now that a suite of pricing apps – like Hailo or Uber – are here. But it is also that the regulatory bar should be raised across all private hire vehicles to ensure consumer protection and safety, if nothing else. In reality, however, the protest boils down to nothing more than how an industry assaulted by disruption deals with change. Does it sound familiar to those in the legal market?

Change can appear particularly threatening to a market in transition and it always ruffles a few feathers. Taxis and law are one of my favourite analogies and I have written previously on this blog comparing the billing methods in the two sectors, not least because in both cases technology has brought down the barriers to entry.

In truth, protests tend to be the last resort when there is no turn back from change and the liberalisation of a market through de-regulation has started to work. As with the black cabs, the world of legal services has changed fundamentally even though that change has yet to trickle down to the consumer market. With taxis, the impact is more direct, but nonethel

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About the author:
Dana Denis-Smith is an entrepreneur and former Linklaters lawyer and international journalist. She founded Obelisk in 2010 to keep ex-City lawyers working flexibly, around their family or other personal commitments. Obelisk is an award-wining business having been Highly Commended in the FT Innovative Lawyers Awards 2012 and a runner up in the Managing Partner Forum Awards. Dana was one of ten European lawyers shortlisted in the Individual Legal Innovator category of the FT awards in 2012. In 2007 she founded the award – wining emerging markets specialist business Marker Global. In 2010 she was featured in Management Today magazines “35 under 35” list of female high flyers. The yearly list features a roll call of the most inspirational businesswomen under the age of 35 in the UK. She graduated with a Bsc in International History and Msc in Political Economy from the London School of Economics. She is a member of the Law Society.