- 360 Business Law, a virtual law firm with operations across 60 countries, has recently expanded to the US, and wants to establish presences in all 50 states.
- By eliminating overhead costs, the firm wants to challenge the legal industry by providing flat-rate fees for its clients that are significantly lower than the industry standard.
- Robert Taylor, the firm's CEO and general counsel, and Ben Lambert, president of its new US practice, spoke to Business Insider about their unique business model and why they think the US legal market is ripe for disruption.
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A UK-based virtual law firm has expanded to the US, and is seeking to disrupt the legal industry by shedding overhead costs and attracting high-end lawyers to its team of freelance lawyers.
360 Business Law is a fully-remote firm founded in 2014 by attorney Robert Taylor, who is now its CEO and general counsel. He spotted an opportunity in the shifting regulatory landscape with the Legal Services Act of 2007, which said that most legal services in the UK, including managing contracts and offering corporate advice, could be done by even non-lawyers.
"It was destroying the legal profession in the UK," Taylor said.
The regulated vs. unregulated distinction doesn't apply to the US, since you have to be a licensed attorney if you want to practice law, explained Ben Lambert, president of the US practice. He said that 360 Business Law's virtual, commercially-minded model nevertheless translates well to the American market.
"A lawyer's job should not be to say no, but to understand the client's business," Lambert, who previously was at Baker McKenzie, said.
360 Business Law contracts lawyers across most practice areas, but their primary services are account management, employment law, and commercial contracts. The firm connects clients with lawyers in the relevant industry and jurisdiction.
Crossing the pond during a pandemic and looking forward
Despite the less-than-serendipitous timing — it launched its Washington, DC office just before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March — the firm has been weathering the storm just fine, according to Taylor.
"It's business as usual," he said, noting that they've undertaken project work in 32 countries over the past few months.
Lambert said that 360 Business Law has ambitions to penetrate all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico. Gordon & Rees was the first law firm to claim presence in every US jurisdiction in 2019, as previously reported in Bloomberg.
"We will directly challenge the traditional law firm model and prove to prospect clients and colleagues across the nation that legal services can be performed cost-effectively," Lambert told Business Insider.
Its lawyers are either solo practitioners or contracted from law firms, and 360 Business Law said that it's open to exploring partnerships with US firms.
Low overhead costs and wide geographical coverage, enabled by in-house tech, are the firm's key assets
Taylor and Lambert outlined two major reasons why they think the firm can become a "thought leader" in the US.
First is the low overhead costs, since the firm doesn't have swanky offices in expensive cities and doesn't hire receptionists or paralegals.
This makes it possible for the firm to charge their clients significantly lower fees. The firm runs on a subscription model, where subscribers are charged a flat-rate hourly fee of $214.50 per hour for most US jurisdictions and $260 per hour for major states like New York and DC.
By contrast, white-shoe firms can charge anywhere from an average of $400 per hour for associates to $600 per hour for partners, as previously reported in Reuters.
Although it might seem, on first glance, that the lawyers at 360 Business Group are consequently paid less, Taylor said that there's actually more going into their pocket at the end of the day.
"The overhead costs of admin and other people costs make up 70% of turnover, which means you're left with 30% left to pay partners and lawyers," he explained. Plus, attorneys don't have either billable hour or business origination requirements, leaving them more time to focus on their cases.
Second, 360 Business Group's wide geographical coverage, unhindered by the need for a physical office space, allows them greater reach and diversity.
The firm is currently operating in 60 countries with around 240 lawyers, all of whom have at least five years of experience and work in firms like DLA Piper and Allen & Overy.
Taylor also said that the cloud-based case management system that the firm developed in-house enables their lawyers to work from anywhere in the world, so long as they have Internet access.
Read more: The notoriously old-school legal industry is finally warming up to tech. Here are the winners and losers as law firms turn to startups to cut costs.
360 Business Law's distributed, virtual setup positions the firm to disrupt the US market, per Lambert.
"Clients want law firms that utilize advanced, secure technologies. They want lawyers that understand the commercial side of things," he said. "They want timelines, budgets, project management."
The client-oriented mindset is something that most US law schools don't teach, added Lambert, who has experience in legal operations. In fact, many attorneys hired by 360 Business Law have been entrepreneurs and investors, and bring to the law firm a commercial focus.
"That's all very new for the American lawyer," he said. "I did a lot of that working as a legal project manager, and it was a very new thing…. So I said, you know what? Yeah, I think that the US market is ripe for this type of setup."
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