In a new feature at Legal Geek, we’re profiling cool and interesting people we know in a weekly column: the Legal Geek of the Week. This week its pioneering legal disrupter Michael Friedmann.
For tech start-ups and their founders, validation of purpose and concept often arrive in similarly-sized packages such as securing a new client contract, completing a new investment round, or successfully testing a new algorithm or piece of technology. But for German LawTech pioneer Michael Friedmann, these moments come wrapped in much smaller packages.
Between 1999 and 2015, Friedmann, the CEO of QNC GmbH, was accustomed to explaining his line of work in a roundabout and cumbersome way. Invariably something along the lines of ‘delivering technology which facilitates the execution of legal services in a faster and smarter way’. Not a snappy tagline it would be fair to say.
But two years ago that changed forever with Friedmann able to use the phrase “legal tech” and be understood instantly as to what area he was in, and how important it is to the future of the legal industry.
“We were just happy to find out that what we had been doing had a name,” Friedmann explained to Legal Geek. “Before it was difficult to explain to people what we did but now we can just say ‘legal tech’ and people go ‘ah, I know what you are doing.’ It’s made life a lot easier!”
Friedmann is one of the early breed of legal tech pioneers who started his company way back in 1999. Eighteen years on and QNC GmbH now manage three different legal tech platforms, and count 23 employees. Their two most established platforms, frag-einen- anwalt.de and 123recht.net, generate 60m euros in fees annually for the lawyers who operate on them. But don’t be heard saying that Friedmann works for lawyers. He doesn’t. Whilst his business model means his companies take 35% of a lawyer’s fee for work secured through his platforms, he is adamant that his true clients are those who enlist a lawyer’s
services. And he has some bracing words for the industry on the current state of lawyer-client
“It is still not a transparent marketplace. The client and the lawyer are not on the same level. The lawyer looks down to the client and expects the client to look up to them and pay them what he desires. This is not good for the industry because they fear going to a lawyer in the future. We are a legal tech company which focuses on the client not the lawyer. If a deal is good for a lawyer it is not always good for a client. But if a deal is good for a client it is generally good for everyone.”
Friedmann, a trained lawyer, comes at legal tech from a client perspective in part due to a previous negative experience he had himself in trying to recruit a lawyer to represent him in a minor dispute. As Friedmann curtly puts it “I found the wrong lawyer.”
Further underlining his position on the side of the client, is the recent announcement that Friedmann’s most nascent platform, anwalt-prime.de, is offering clients a flat-rate fee of 80 euros a month to seek as much advice from a lawyer as they wish.
According to Friedmann, the competitiveness of the online legal marketplace is only set to increase as artificial intelligence (AI) continues to develop. And automation of many legal services, he feels, isn’t far away. Indeed, Friedmann’s company itself are currently looking for funding to develop their legal SAAS process management software for lawyers, which has ambitions as high as being able to automise 80% of the current work of a lawyer.
“I believe that people will soon choose to use legal services provided by a computer over those of a human. AI will be able to look up 100,000 similar cases instantly so people will choose the computer.”
Friedmann may be a disrupter to the established legal industry but he is not a one-eyed evangelist for legal tech either, reserving a reality check for those currently in the space:
“I can see a lot of start-ups that don’t have a vision in what they want to do other than wanting to sell their company for big numbers.”
Outspoken, original and, at 43, an industry veteran already, Michael Friedmann is the Legal
Geek of the Week.