By Catherine Wilson, Daily Business Review | July 23, 2018
Miami attorney Etan Mark is a tech nerd.
“I love talking about legal tech,” the Mark Migdal & Hayden co-founder said. “It’s impacting my marriage.” But don’t worry, he said his wife is a lawyer and “a good sport.”
“One of my general strategies in this law firm is to do things that other firms are not doing,” Mark said. “Life is too short. I want our firm to be the firm that’s doing things differently to the benefit of our clients.”
Mark, who launched his firm last year after being a Berger Singerman partner in Miami and a Weil, Gotshal & Manges associate in New York, also loves thinking in deep detail about what he wants technology to do for his five-attorney commercial litigation firm.
Budgeting and project management are his priorities.
Mark is about 45 days away from beta testing a proprietary piece of litigation budgeting software. He doesn’t have a name yet, but his cousin is handling the intellectual property side.
“Right now, the way lawyers provide budgets to clients, in my experience, it’s been a compete crapshoot,” he said. “Fee predictability is just so important for clients right now. You’ve got to manage expectations.”
Two kinds of testing are planned. One is to have people at different firms and in different markets reverse engineer a completed case to see if the software algorithm lands in the same fee neighborhood. The second option is to check an anticipated budget against actual work in six months.
Mark Migdal already provides clients with binding budgets that take cases up to trial using a template.
“We provide a number to a client. We do not exceed that number,” Mark said. “It’s incredible how much clients appreciate it. We’re in this point in the practice where we’re much more in a buyer’s market than a seller’s market.”
Potential customers for the budgeting software are clients like insurers with large-scale litigation, law firms and litigation finance companies.
The firm’s tech approach starts at intake.
“At the moment we meet with a client, we trigger immediately 15 deadlines that are correlated to tasks and documents,” Mark said. “A big part of the way lawyers provide value to clients is by not reinventing the wheel on every single document.”
Standard material includes a case analysis memo, a case management plan, filing a complaint for plaintiffs and service of discovery. In case management, Mark Migdal uses a heavily customized version of Actionstep, a cloud-based legal practice management software.
“I don’t need 20 lawyers on a file in order to compete on a case. A big part of that is technology,” he said. ”I believe very much that if there’s a technology that can do something well, then it should be embraced.”
Mark works with software developers from Pakistan via Skype, email and regular phone conferences. Two people in Florida are adapting existing software to the firm’s day-to-day needs. His twin goals are to improve the client relationship and the practice of law.
“There’s this gap that needs to be bridged between the tech side of development and the lawyer’s side of development,” Mark said. “One of the reasons that we started this firm is to be actively engaged in bridging that gap.”
Homogenizing the budgeting process is a good starting point.
“I love thinking about what law firms are going to be looking like in the future. I love turning that over,” Mark said. “It’s an institution that is ripe for change.”
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