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For the past 8 years now, I’ve been sitting on the legal innovation bus - trying to bring fresh ideas and models of working. This strange and wonderful journey began just as the effect of deregulation of the legal services market started to kick in. Then, like many others, I entered the B2B market with a new proposition focused on a simple idea to work differently: pay for lawyers as and when needed but also keep the lawyers that cannot work traditional hours for a variety of personal reasons firmly connected to the profession. The waste of good talent was – and remains – one of the biggest challenges of the legal profession, one which is built around people.
Quite often, I have been left wondering whether this bus is going in the direction we had all hoped - to deliver more access to justice for those that cannot afford it, give customers a better and cheaper service, make the profession more diverse (at all levels of seniority) or create a more competitive environment for existing players. More often than not, I’ve felt the bus is stuck in a traffic jam: bombarded by a crowded market place, with a lot of noisy competitors each trying to go the same way, frustrated that the infrastructure is getting in the way of them reaching their destination.
Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) are not alternative anymore, they’ve become the norm and as such, have lost their sense of purpose. What was innovative once is now commonplace and the ABS label is not enough to support what its key players are achieving. In their blind pursuit for success, they’ve become closer to the law firms they were trying to shake down - high aversion to risk, outdated legacy leadership model, gender pay gaps, low diversity and low ethics. Without transparency, talking the talk is sadly more common than walking the walk and inflated claims fill social media channels with business white noise like so much fairy powder hiding the truth. Failing recent structural innovation, everyone is looking out on the window hoping (or fearing?) that
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Dana Denis-Smith is the CEO and founder of Obelisk Support, a legal services provider offering flexible legal solutions to FTSE100 and law firms with highly-skilled lawyers. Obelisk Support was listed as one of the fastest-growing businesses in Europe in 2018 by the Financial Times.
A TedX speaker, Dana regularly speaks at industry events and in the media on gender equality, entrepreneurship and legal technology. In 2019, she was recognised by the Legal 500 for Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services and in 2018, she was voted Legal Personality of the Year at the LexisNexis Awards
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