Interview | David Bushby (Lexoo)
Lexoo is the leading curated marketplace for business lawyers in the U.K. and has thus far been responsible for connecting over 6,000 businesses with a panel of experienced independent lawyers. A key component of the Lexoo business model is the ability of lawyers to pass on the cost savings of having low overhead to their customers allowing them to save in excess of 46% of their legal spend when contrasted with the costs of receiving comparable legal work at a traditional firm.The Lexoo system works by allowing individuals to post a job request. After a period of 1 -2 business days, the individual receives three (3) quotes from specialised lawyers hand-picked by the Lexoo team. Consumers are then provided the opportunity to choose between each quote based on the profiles of each lawyer, their quotes and reviews.David Bushby is the Managing Director of Lexoo Australia. He studied Law and Business at Griffith University. He began his career at King & Wood Mallesons, before working (amongst other positions) as a Legal Manager at Macquarie Bank. In 2015, David joined Lexoo as Chief Operating Officer in London. Since that time, David has relocated to Sydney Australia to establish the legal marketplace model in Australia.David was kind enough to catch up recently with The Legal Forecast to provide us with some insight into his unique take on the future of legal practice and his journey so far.
David, tell us a little about your background – why did you decide to step into the world of start ups and innovation?
Hey thanks for having me on! Love your work JI’ve basically spent half of my career practising law and the other half in startups. While I’d love to say I had the courage to give up the corporate life (and salary) to launch my own venture, it didn’t quite work out that way at first. It was a friend of mine who’d launched a startup that I later joined, right when the financial crisis hit – my role at Macquarie was made redundant, so at least I hand a handy pay cheque to carry me through those lean early months.
What was your time at Griffith University like? What was unique about studying law on the Gold Coast?
Brilliant. Loved it. I was such a keen bean and tried to take advantage of every opportunity to help build out the reputation and offering for Griffith Law GC. We were the first cohort to do all our law subjects on the Gold Coast, but we had to fight and lobby for it that’s for sure. Our classes only had about 30 people in them, so there was almost no difference between a lecture and a tutorial – super interactive and we formed a pretty tight knit crew.
You initially began as Chief Operating Officer of Lexoo in the United Kingdom. Could you highlight some of the cultural similarities and differences between the legal landscape in England and Australia?
I think Aussies and Brits are very similar – we love a laugh, share a great sense of humour and don’t mind a drink or two. I found almost no difference dealing with UK lawyers vs. Australian lawyers, and given our own legal system is derived from theirs, it’s a very familiar landscape. Perhaps we’re a little more direct in our communications, whereas Brits might tend to qualify their words a bit more – something actually prefer and have tried adopt in my own communications.
We have read that the start up culture is more developed in England and that venture capitalists are more willing to invest in start ups than in Australia. Did you find this to be the case?
Absolutely. Leaving Sydney I thought we had a thriving start up scene (which we do) but it’s next level in London. And so it should be. Almost everything in London is next level. It’s not just the size of the UK market, it’s the whole European market that feeds into the UK (although Brexit is an obvious threat to that) both in terms of investment dollars and talent pool. That means more VCs, more funding, more startups in a country whose policy settings are far more advanced at promoting entrepreneurship than Australia’s – equity crowdfunding is totally the norm in the UK for example.
Would you say that law firms in England are more or less equipped than firms in Australia to adopt new legal technology?
Prior to moving to England I thought perhaps Aussie firms were more progressive on the the tech front than the English firms. That was coming from feedback from those in Aussie firms that had been taken over/merged with English firms. My sense is that Australian firms were pretty quick to start innovating, but the English firms are now very much in full swing and have probably leapt ahead in some areas. English firms were partnering with #LegalTech incubators first, A&O created Peerpoint first, but I think on the whole it’s probably pretty similar.
What are some of the more challenging moments you have faced in working with Lexoo and do you ever miss the consistency of working for a large firm?
Watching your runway (or bank balance) red-lining on empty right before a capital raise is pretty hairy. Having to report a dip in numbers to investors is never fun. Admitting that a product feature or a growth strategy didn’t work and having to abandon it is also hard to do. But this is all part and parcel of life at any startup, yet you also get such amazing highs like closing a funding round, breaking records, having amazing people say ‘yes’ to joining your mission.
What advice do you have for young law students and lawyers who are unsure about what direction to take their future careers?
For students: if you’re set on becoming a lawyer, follow your values and beliefs. For example, if you’re passionate about human rights, don’t go work for a top-tier corporate firm. Even if it’s just to ‘get it on the resume’, life’s too short for that. If you’re tossing up becoming a lawyer vs. pursuing another opportunity that, being honest with yourself, actually gets you fire-in-the-belly excited, then pursue that opportunity first – you’ll never have more energy, time and freedom to pursue your dream (and if that dream is to become a lawyer, then go get it!).For young lawyers: if lawyering doesn’t do it for you, then start exploring other options. You might be surprised what’s out there and how valuable your skills are. The longer you wait (it doesn’t get better/easier), the more you’ll box yourself in as a ‘lawyer’, which can be a label (and attitude) that’s hard to shake. Of course many of us still love the industry, but not necessarily the practise of law in a law firm or corporate environment. You’re in luck because there are now so many options to explore new ways of providing legal services! J
The ‘legal marketplace’ model has become increasingly popular. Lexoo is unique in that it uses a panel to provide prospective clients with a range of options to choose from. How do you go about ensuring that clients receive a broad range of cost tenders and practitioners? Is all this information stored in a database?
I think any marketplace needs to start with a solid base of providers – in our case it was onboarding enough lawyers to represent a broad mix of practice areas to service most client enquiries with a range of options. The lawyer-side of the marketplace grew organically, in that we didn’t aggressively market to lawyers to get them on board. In fact, it’s hard to keep up with the numbers of lawyers that apply to join the site, because we’re curated marketplace that only accepts a certain type of lawyer – specialised, forward-thinking, ex-top tier/brand name experience who’re operating on low overheads. We take all the information gather during the vetting process and capture that data in our system to help automate the matching process.
We have read about increasing cyber security threats in legal practice. Do you have any particular insight on what challenges Lexoo has faced on the cyber security front and how they have responded?
No, we don’t have any particular insights on this. Of course all the information provided to Lexoo by businesses is strictly confidential, but the vast majority of the sensitive information doesn’t touch our servers – it’s mostly provided to the lawyer directly once they’re engaged.
Do you have a quote you live by or think of often?
I have a few!“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” – very helpful when you’re about to approach someone cold.“Do something every day that scares you” – I say it when I’m about to jump on stage or agree to do something where I’m out of my depth.“Create something every day” – I write something (hopefully) insightful every day and share it with my network. Over time it adds up to a lot and hones my skills bit by bit.
Who springs to mind when you think of the word ‘successful’?
What is your ‘legal forecast’ for the future of Lexoo, the legal marketplace business model and legal practice in general?
Lexoo’s network (while very strong in UK and Australia) now spans over 20 countries –that trend will continue where soon we can truly call ourselves global. For certain legal job requests, getting fixed fee quotes is entirely automated so again, expect more of that. For the legal marketplace segment more broadly, it’s a hyper-competitive space so expect quite a lot of consolidation as the clear leaders in each region start to emerge. And for legal practice, with more and more new law firms starting up without the legacy of billable hours, I think we’ll start to see far more uptake of technology and flexible work, which will be a win-win for clients and lawyers – I can’t wait for this transition to a new breed of law firm to be complete (it’s only just begun!).