There’s a lot of buzz about what’s going on in the legal services industry in the Netherlands. Following the innovations and trends in the legal industry for quite a while, I decided to go ahead and use some tweets from our twitter account (@Clocktimizer) to identify which trends from the US and the UK found their way to mainland Europe and in particular the Netherlands.

1. Alternative legal service providers
Number 1 in my list and giving law firms headaches. RocketLawyer, Riverview and Axiom are examples of non-traditional legal service providers that have entered the law practice industry. In the Netherlands, Deloitte and PwC have recently opened up shop.

While having a status-aparte used to be a benefit for lawyers, these days as a lot of the work done by lawyers is non-contentious and the litigation monopoly requires lawyers to adhere to rules that make them less competitive these days. To survive, firms need to figure out what their competitive edge is and (re)position themselves accordingly. Even if that would mean that they would have to give up their litigation monopoly, as Christ’l Dullaert of LeTableau pointed out.

2. Alternative fee arrangements
Law firm De Brauw last month published their range of alternative fee arrangements on their website. And before that, Dutch firm Van Iersel Luchtman announced to litigate for a fixed price.

Being able to determine whether a certain price is profitable for you or not is going to be key in the decision of a lawyer to take on a project. One of the important things to be aware of, is that alternative fee arrangements are not a simple discount. There is a lot more to it than that. It requires creativity from a lawyer.

Firms should have the information available at their lawyers’ fingertips to be creative with fee arrangements. Those firms that are proactive with AFAs are likely to be more profitable than those who are passively waiting until a client demands that they want AFAs. Which one do you want to be?

3. Project management
management photoA lot of lawyers that I speak with are talking about how to incorporate project management into their practice. Let’s face it: if you’re managing a transaction in ten countries, eight potential buyers, a client that has a due diligence team, a corporate finance team and another legal team and some other advisors, you can be pretty sure that you find yourself right in the middle of some serious project management.

However, lawyers do not consider themselves project managers and therefor easily write off large chunks of ‘project management’. Had they thought about this up front and allocated an amount of their fee arrangement to project management, the client would most probably have accepted this. Considering project management a part of the job, lawyers will see a steep increase in their recovery. So, thinking about it is one step, and luckily I see a lot of lawyers who are trying to do something about it as well.

4. Linked data and open data
The Dutch government is betting on a better knowledge management system where the central law depository will be the (currently missing) link between all government produced information on laws. Data from different government departments and all verdicts will be linked. This will not only provide the government with a great knowledge base, but will also be extremely useful for law practitioners who don’t want to spend thousands of euros on databases provided by commercial providers.

While this may pose a threat to the existing commercial knowhow providers, one of the possibilities for law firms would be to help fill that central database with advice (for instance with posts from their blogs). This could potentially attract new clients who found the firm through this database.

5. Paperless office versus Cybersecurity
management photo For many years, everyone focussed on going to a paperless office. With all types of bugs and vulnerabilities in security certificates and all kinds of hacks disclosing photos and creditcard data, it is food for thought whether losing all the paper is such a good idea.

While it is practically impossible to remove anything digital from your workspace, raising awareness about security, encryption and the risks of digitalising every bit of paper in a law firm is essential. It’s not only the external threat of attackers trying to crack your email and creditcard, but maybe even more the threat of insiders not being careful with their passwords and other operational security issues.

All in all it is good to see that these trends are getting traction. Hopefully lawyers will start acting on those trends and find ways to deal with the challenges they are facing.