With COVID-19 casting a harsh light on the outdated, entrenched ways of how legal services are delivered, it was clear as day from the very beginning that the pandemic will turbocharge the industry transformation. The unique nature of the crisis has affected the entire legal ecosystem, forcing the “business as usual” out of the ‘law universe’ and clearing the path for alternative work paradigms long resisted by ‘the old legal order’.
Now, it’s safe to say, the crisis propelled the legal industry into the digital age and reshaped its outdated landscape.
And in this current climate of change in the legal field, two partners with 60 years of combined experience in Big Law introduced a new model that has the potential to replace the full-service model.
Founded by Art Beeman and Joel Muchmore- IP veterans who practiced together at the largest and most prominent law firms in the country -Beeman & Muchmore is a brand new virtual law firm that has harnessed emerging technologies to deliver software licensing and audit-defense counseling as cleanly and efficiently as possible.
‘Beeman & Muchmore stands out from other virtual offices because of the micro-specialty we have developed by handling substantially similar recurring disputes, on behalf of clients in all industries.’ Beeman and Munchmore told JD Journal ‘Because the software licensing issues that we specialize in recur in all businesses across all industries with alarming regularity, we have built up an unmatched database of experiences.’. As such, our counseling is turn-key and free from expensive and risky learning curves. Because software licensing issues impact all businesses of all types, it is crucial for companies to have immediate and reliable access to this type of specialized service.
Art and Joel, how did you two meet?
‘We met at Dentons a decade ago and immediately began collaborating on a major patent licensing dispute for a client in the life sciences space. The matter was unusually contentious, demanded a lot of immediate response, and absorbed a lot of time. While riding through the twists and turns on that case, we developed a friendship and realized that, along with the associates and staff with whom we worked, that we made a great team. The foundation of that relationship is one of great mutual respect and trust, along with a good measure of professional admiration.’
With 60 years combined in Biglaw, it’s safe to say you are veterans. Tell me more about the overall experience—the upsides and downsides. And most of all why did you leave?
B & M Our experiences were very favorable. Both together and apart, we worked on significant cases for wonderful clients, learned our trade, and met stellar colleagues. It was at BigLaw that we became the lawyers that we are today. However, as is true in all industries, change is inevitable. BigLaw became narcissistic, more and more about itself and not about serving clients. Eventually, BigLaw firms became obsessed with comparing themselves to how other BigLaw firms were doing, based on metrics (per partner profit, etc.) that have nothing to do with client service and can, in fact, put a law firm at odds with the needs of their clients. What motivated us to craft the GigLaw model was the opportunity to put in place a better delivery system for providing our legal services to clients.
You were the two litigators in the iconic Mars vs Oracle. Tell me how did that happen?
B & M As experienced litigators in all types of intellectual property disputes, we were given the opportunity to pitch the matter. We did so and won the engagement. At the time, due to confidentiality provisions and NDAs, the pervasiveness of Oracle’s deeply unpopular “audit script” was not publicly known. Once we filed the Mars v. Oracle matter, the floodgates opened, and scores of beleaguered Oracle licensees reached out to us to share their stories and to thank us for bringing attention to Oracle’s practices.
Describe the road or the jump From Big law to Giglaw, how did that happen?
B & M It became immediately clear that clients are quite responsive to a model that delivers legal services in the most efficient way possible. Increasingly, companies are moving more and more legal services inhouse and are looking to purchase a la carte legal services to supplement the departments they have labored to build out. In this way, companies are creating highly efficient virtual teams that bring together a seamless mix of in-house and retained counsel with specialized and well-defined roles. The fact that we have been able to do this through our GigLaw model has been very encouraging and has made us very optimistic about the future of law.
There is an evident rise in the ‘virtual attorney’ phenomenon. Do you think virtual law firms are the ‘future’, meaning do they have the potential to replace the ‘brick and mortar’ concept for good?
B & M There will come a time when the vast preponderance of law firms will be virtual, saving clients the enormous expense of paying for unnecessary law firm overhead.
Launching a new, innovative business in times like this is a bold move. What was exactly the trigger that made you do this, was it something that you two had planned for a long time or was it a lightbulb moment?
B & M It was not a lightbulb moment, as much as it was the product of evolutionary thinking. Our counseling was tied to our ability to create a specialty and deliver it in this manner. The decision to launch Beeman & Muchmore was made before the pandemic, but the rapid acceptance of remote working will help pave the way for more firms such as ours.
How would you describe Giglaw to someone who is not familiar with the term?
B & M GigLaw is a method or mode of practice where the focus is on the delivery of the legal services in the manner most effective for the client. Rather than trying to be everything to every client, GigLaw positions lawyers like us, who have deep understanding and experience in certain areas, as a critical arm to our clients, working on very specific issues that benefit their company. This is in marked contrast to the BigLaw model, which constructs a practice to which the client is forced to conform. By harnessing the efficiencies of technology for a lean virtual office with little overhead and our micro-specialty in software licensing, it allows us to immediately conform to the contours of a client’s needs without expensive learning curves.
Given that the legal world is forcibly reacting fast to change, and adapts in this new bizarre normal. Do you two think the legal world is changing for good or this is a one-time thing?
B & M We absolutely believe that the changes in the legal industry are accelerating and are permanent. Even before the pandemic, clients were increasingly demanding the efficient and unencumbered delivery of legal services. Uncertainty as a result of the pandemic will absolutely result in entrenchment and expansion of this trend.
What are your expectations and hopes for the future?
B & M What we are seeing with these new delivery models is a “back to the future” phenomenon. The delivery of legal services was initially about the client, but then the legal industry lost its way and prioritized the law firm itself. Our hope for the future is that the legal industry will put the client back in a place of primacy, where our industry began and what it should have been doing all along. Due to efforts such as ours, we are optimistic that this trend will continue into the future.
Notwithstanding the uncertainty created by the pandemic, we are very optimistic about our firm and the future of the legal industry. A shakeup was long overdue, had already begun, and will now accelerate. Clients don’t particularly care about law firms and they certainly don’t care about outdated competitive law firm metrics. Clients have businesses to grow and run, and the job of our industry is to play a supporting role to their business needs. Emerging trends, such as our GigLaw model are doing just that.