How technology supports the pursuit of justice by enabling small law firms to work at scale
Mark Haddad, General Manager, Small Law Firms, Thomson Reuters
When one thinks of law firms in the United States, most have an image of the large or corporate firm with sprawling offices and partners specialized in a variety of areas to serve their client needs. While there are many large law firms in the U.S., the reality is that, for the majority of Americans and American business, recourse to legal representation often runs through small law firms.
Small law firms are defined as those with 10 or fewer lawyers and it is estimated there are more than 175,000 small law firms in the U.S. At Thomson Reuters, we support small law firms by providing technologies that help level their playing field and ensure their clients have access to justice.
While some small law firms do support corporate clients, the vast majority of small law firm work supports companies that are owned and operated by families or individuals, or they provide legal services for individual consumers and citizens. Small law firms are central to the entrepreneurial spirit and organizations working to grow and thrive. This client base exposes small firms to all kinds of legal issues, where the outcome could be significant — keeping a business afloat, supporting testamentary needs, or providing fair and much-needed compensation after a personal injury event.
One of the main benefits for small law firms is that they are inherently flexible. They need to have a broad range of expertise and the ability to cover a range of needs for small business as well as ensure that their clients have access to legal advice at affordable rates. Many small law firms are also deeply embedded in their local communities, involved in local government, and depended upon for a broad range of advice and guidance.
By using technology, several real advantages and benefits begin to emerge for small law firms to serve clients and compete in innovative ways. For instance, practice tools help to bring efficiency to these firms and enable them to cover more ground and serve a greater and more diverse practice and base of legal needs for their clients.
Technology also allows small law firms to level the playing field with larger firms, which is important as it allows them to credibly advocate for their clients who are often in litigation with well-resourced entities. An example of this is the advantage offered through the use of AI-powered content solutions — including our own Westlaw Edge or Practical Law — which provide small law firms with efficiency, allowing them to punch at the weight of a much larger, more sophisticated firm.
Unlike larger firms that may have an extensive book of business with their clients, most small law firms are more dependent on consumers or small businesses with only occasional legal needs. For these, technology around DIY and business development — most of which we serve up within our FindLaw properties — enables easy connections between a consumer with a legal need and the right legal expertise in their geographical area, but also provides resources to help determine consumers’ legal rights and responsibilities.
Given the depth and breadth of small law firms in the U.S, they are incredibly central to so many communities and small businesses that make up the fabric of society. Ensuring that small law can operate at scale and draw upon the resources and tools that technology now provides is one way we support the pursuit of justice.