Interview | Andrew Mellett (Plexus)
As CEO of Plexus, Andrew Mellett is on a mission to transform the value of legal services. Co-founding the company in 2011, he now leads a team of lawyers, technologists and engineers across five countries in building what has been described as a game-changer for legal operations.
Plexus launched Legal Gateway, the world’s first legal operating system, in 2016, and already it’s being used by in-house legal teams at over 200 of the world’s largest organisations including L’Oreal, Samsung, Woolworths, Spotify, General Mills, Coca Cola and General Motors. Driving this growth is a fresh approach to the law coupled with the world’s most advanced legal technology.
Plexus has been profiled as a case study in the disruption of the professional services industry by HBR, INSEAD, ACU and RMIT, and Andrew’s thought leadership can often be found published in the AFR, Sydney Morning Herald, ALB, Lawyers Weekly and The Age.
Our remarkable Victorian President, Sophie Tversky, was fortunate to pick Andrew’s brain recently.
My co-founder and I believe that business, when done right, is a powerful lever to reshape and improve the world. We saw an industry where both clients and lawyers were unhappy with the paradigm, and we believed there had to be a better way.
If you think about it, the law is the best mechanism we’ve found to guide society. It provides certainty, access to justice, and is the connective tissue of value creation. It’s also slow, unpredictable and incredibly expensive. We want to create a future where access to the value that ‘The Law’ provides is as easy, efficient, and reliable as turning on a tap. And we want everyone to win from that.
‘The Law’ has profited for a long time from information arbitrage (i.e. “we know the law, and if you want to access that knowledge you need to pay us a premium and deal with a heap of eccentricities built into our model”). Through a confluence of technological change, and deregulation, that information asymmetry is rapidly dissolving. You can now Google a legal question and get a reasonable answer, or you can get onto our Legal Gateway platform and get a legal task done in 10% of the time it used to take, for a fraction of the cost. This trend is only beginning too.
We see three major outcomes from this trend; some positive for lawyers and some negative:
If you look at it, what every customer wants is a solution to their problem that is ‘faster, better, and cheaper’. To the frustration of their clients, law firms have traditionally suggested that they can only have one of those three. Their ‘hourly rate’ charging model has incentivized behavior that over-indexes on quality to the utmost detriment of speed and cost, when in fact speed has the greatest correlation with customer satisfaction. The result? An industry average Net Promoter Score of 16%.
On the contrary, Jeff Besos has built one of the largest enterprises in the world with a simple strategy: Faster, Better, Cheaper – and has dominated industries through successfully combining all three.
The answer to your question is two fold:
The application of technology is going to drive a lot of this, hence there will be a huge amount of hybrid computer science/legal roles, and many more business/legal roles. Some we are seeing are:
We have been at the vanguard of many of the largest transitions the industry has seen over the last seven years, and we hope to remain at the forefront in creating ‘The Future of The Law’.
We are investing aggressively in three spaces:
For a long time it was believed that success in the legal industry required zero technical expertise, though The Law as a monoline skillset is in the process of being disrupted. Those who will succeed in the legal industry of the future will have lateral skill sets that they can apply to create value in unique ways. I would advise law grads to combine law with business, engineering or computer science, and develop soft skills that cannot be replicated by technology.
General Counsels are different to their executive peers, as for the most parts that are lateral hires out of law firms. While the CFO or Head of Marketing may have ‘moved in house’ from a consulting provider in their 20s, the GC often get’s parachuted in from a law firm after they make partner. The challenge of course is that the skills that are required to be a successful partner are incredibly different to those required to be an executive in a large enterprise. Given this blind spot, many try to assemble an ‘inhouse law firm’ – ultimately failing the business.
Leading GCs in the future will borrow from the successful playbook used in other functions (Finance, HR, IT etc). They will attempt to centralise, standardise and automate routine legal work into Legal Operations Hubs (much like financial shared service centers), and compress the cost and time of these activities. They will then reallocate those resources to establish ‘Legal Business Partners’ who we call ‘pathfinders’. They will be tasked with navigating complexity to generate competitive advantage for the organization. This will then free the GC up to transition from ‘The Company Lawyer’ to a strategically important executive.
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