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Exigent talks tech in The Lawyer’s first analysis of alternative legal services providers in the UK

December 17, 2018

Exigent’s CEO, David Holme discusses the role of technology in the rise of ALSPs across the British legal landscape

For the first time since the launch of the UK 200 – the most detailed ranking of the top British law firms developed by the Lawyer magazine – the publication has included a section about Alternative Legal Services Providers (ASLPs).  Recognizing the increasing influence of the so-called ‘New Law providers’, the Lawyer magazine included Exigent in the list of leading ASLPs alongside the Big Four’s forays into legal practice.  Exigent’s CEO, David Holme, was interviewed to discuss the changes in the industry and role technology plays in shaping a new, fast-changing landscape.

As we predicted, the accountants have been grabbing market share with their multidisciplinary approach to providing legal services to corporates.  The Lawyer magazine maintains the shift is “partly being driven by new technology but it is also a reflection of a shift in attitudes on the part of providers, new investors, and clients.  What was once niche and left field is becoming mainstream.  And rapidly”.

And of Exigent it says: “Exigent is on a roll, not least because of its genuine understanding and use of tech and its broad client base of corporates and law firms.  In its most recent financial year, total revenue was up by 46% globally”.

Technology is hyped but ultimately a hit.

Together with the flexibility, simplicity, and efficiency that ALSPs provide, the analysis of how clients are changing their attitudes also takes into consideration technology.

David Holme says: “It’s endemic across the entire industry to say ‘I have tech therefore I am’, but there’s a world of difference between having it and using it.  This is where the hype is far ahead of reality.  Most lawyers don’t know how to buy tech or understand numbers.  Today’s market requires leadership credibility in tech and a laser focus on numbers, data and analytics.  The hype around AI is a mirage that ignores the realities of the commercial world – the smartest rearguard action against technology being fought in the world today.

Law firms should be able to tell you how many hours each of their litigators spend training on Relativity.  How many have Relativity user accreditation?  But in fact, it’s becoming just a health badge so firms can say ‘we’ve got it’.”

As an example of how the marriage of tech and focus can meet client demand, Exigent’s CEO describes how the company helps a global bank with around 3,000 credit agreements for big deals: “[these deals are] complex and run to around 400 pages each.  We built our own tool to handle this, using Power BI, Kira, a live tool risk and legal base”.

He then goes on to talk about the importance of knowing how to deal with huge amounts of data: “In California, we worked on a case that had 40,000 plaintiffs and the lawyers wanted to use data analytics.  There were 500,000 lines of data.  We simplified that data into something they can use on their iPad”.

Exigent’s growth

As part of the analysis of the market, the Lawyer magazine reported on revenue and personnel numbers.  But not all metrics that apply to law firms are relevant for global, borderless organizations like Exigent.  Quite the opposite.

Holme commented: “The number of lawyers we have in the UK is difficult to quantify as many switch between tasks, and a proportion of work is project-based, such as M&A and litigation.  The second factor is that a sizeable proportion of this is contract management technology revenues which overall grew for Exigent by over 1,000%, with the UK in line with that.  This is in line with our strategy to use lawyers or staff using technology at the same time as increasing sales of our own proprietary technologies (CM and legal spend analysis).  I can say that in the UK the split is roughly even between law firms and corporates”.

In his review of the company’s performance in 2018, Holme recognizes that there has been a big surge in demand for Exigent’s services: “To be honest, it surprises me, but it also inspires me, particularly the diversity of demand”.

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