Australia-based legal startup Crowd & Co, launched on 30 November 2015, is aiming to help corporations and lawyers alike efficiently source help on transactions via a proprietary online matchmaking platform.
Inspired by the engineering sector
Similar to American middle-market focused deal sourcing platform Axial, Crowd & Co, as founder and CEO Jarred Hardman outlines, is based on an engineering sector model for sourcing work. Transaction-based, the engineering sector puts teams together around transactions. “This concept, applies to legal”, explains Hardman, “It will permit the legal services sector to optimize the utilization of talent to decrease overhead and increase profits.”
Hardman, a lawyer himself, began his legal career at Herbert Smith Freehills in Australia – then worked in-house with UGL Limited, an engineering services firm. “I saw engineers working within a fixed and variable cost model and the two industries are similar, yet legal is still utilizing a fixed cost model,” he said. “Adapt your workforce based on workflow demands is the approach Crowd & Co takes to the optimal deployment of legal talent”, Hardman explains.
“The flexible legal market, particularly NewLaw, is trying to cut out the law firms. Crowd & Co is different. We’re building an open marketplace where everyone can participate” he explained. Reputation, pricing and fit are the three core elements of Crowd & Co”. “Looking at it from the perspective of having worked in engineering and construction. Engineering will often subcontract to other engineering firms when they know they’ll need help. Law firms have too much capacity; Crowd & Co is looking to help the market to utilize the labour resources more effectively.”
Notably, Crowd & Co, like Barcelona startup eTools, has created its own virtual startup team from throughout the world including Canada, Argentina, the UK, India, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Crowd & Co: Complimentary to traditional law firms
Hardman strongly believes traditional law firms have a place in the legal market and that Crowd & Co and other startups aren’t going to replace them. He does see, however, “a consolidation of legal services over the next decade, with mega law firms operating like mega engineering firms”. They’ll be similar to multibillion-dollar engineering firms – with a corporate structure – but with specialized legal niches remaining and independent legal consultants becoming the norm.” Hardman also predicts, “lawyers will start to follow the deals rather than just work in one law firm”.
Hardman sees “traditional law firms benefiting from utilizing Crowd & Co, by finding deals and optimizing utilization of talent. And corporates will benefit, too, by finding the talent they need”. Too, “Individual lawyers will work with whom they want to and not be stuck”.
What’s in store for Crowd & Co in 2016 and beyond?
Longer term Hardman also sees Crowd & Co establishing private marketplaces for other professional services, including accounting, finance, engineering, IT and consulting. Each will be its own independent niche, he explains.
In the meantime, Hardman will soon take Crowd & Co on a roadshow through London, San Francisco and Boston, seeking investment funding. “We want to be in London in Q2 then come back to APAC followed by the US. That’s the strategic focus.”