Michael Bluestein, founder of Corporate Counsel in Toronto, has a clear idea of his firm’s position in the market for corporate and securities legal services. “Our motto is ‘downtown expertise at an uptown price.’ We’re all from very big firms, have been trained at big firms. And basically we’re offering a cost advantage because we’re uptown and our overhead cost structure is a lot less.” The firm, says Bluestein, offers the same people, the same level of service, and the same technology as bigger firms, at a fraction of the cost.
Technology and the Smaller Firm
Technology and a focus on process lie at the heart of this approach. “We streamline processes, we make things more cost-effective. We have tools that the very biggest firms have, yet clients are still getting all of the key benefits at a fractional price.”
Technology allows the firm - with its five lawyers - to operate with the same capabilities of much larger firms. “We’ve always spent a lot on technology and invested heavily in it. It allows us to have a cost advantage and do more with less.” Corporate Counsel uses many of the same systems that are in place in big firms in larger markets. “When we’re on a deal, there may be another huge downtown law firm on the deal, and they have eight people. We may allocate three people on that deal and we’re still able to get it done very well.”
Corporate Counsel uses Kira for document review as part of this array of technology. The firm could see that it had a growing pipeline of review work and a recurring need for a solution like Kira. “I like to be ahead of things before we need them,” said Bluestein. “So I wanted to see what was out there before the deals started to come up.”
Nimble Decision Making
Another technology adoption advantage that Corporate Counsel has over larger firms is the quick decision-making processes that come with a smaller, more nimble organization. “Based on my experience in a larger firm, you first had to get buy-in from the tech team, and then they had to go to a partner committee, and then, if it’s a big enough spend, you have to go to all the partners. So you’ve got to convince 80-100 people of the value.” With Kira and some of the other solutions the firm employs, it was able to get to a decision and implementation much quicker.
A key to the firm’s market positioning is that proactive, prepared approach. “It’s not just ‘oh, you have Kira.’ It’s more that we have all the tools the client would need. “They know we’re not some guys in a basement - we have all the tools that a larger firm has plus lots more.”
Workflow + Extraction
The first benefit of Kira was some of its organizational aspects. “One still needs to review the contracts. But what we have found Kira useful for is getting together the framework of what we would have to do for the review. I’m able to see who’s on what task and where we’re at on our document review. It helps us focus on what additional stuff we need to do. Kira acts as a double checker and an organizational tool. It allows for better tracking and draws your attention to key pieces of information.”
In addition to the workflow management aspects of Kira, Bluestein could see at an early stage the value of Kira’s extraction capabilities. “I think it flags things pretty well. We did a deal before we had Kira, and another firm was on the other side and they were doing the due diligence because we were for the seller and they’re for the purchaser. We realized after the deal was done that there was a change of control notice in a lease that the other very large firm had missed. I said to my associate, let’s just throw the contract into Kira to see if it flags it. And it did. So I was pretty happy with that. That shows me that it does catch things that people might not.”
Value in a Post-Pandemic Market
In the end, says Bluestein, it’s not just about the technology - it’s about value, and that value discussion is likely to heat up in the coming months. “When we pitch deals, obviously the technology helps but it’s also the experience and expertise that people get here and the price. And I think after COVID-19 is over, just like in 2009 price will become a huge issue. The economy has obviously slowed down dramatically, so clients will be looking for that price advantage again. I think for us, it’s a great opportunity. Some of the big firms may be hurting over the next couple of years and we’re going to keep selling our story.”