Whether you call it disruptive or ‘plain and simple’ innovative, Ghent-based law firm deJuristen definitely knows how to keep things interesting. They not only approach the ‘old’ legal business in new, fascinating ways, but also keep an eye out for different opportunities that may seem a bit odd for a law firm at first. When they introduced a new marketplace for consumers and local farmers to connect with each other (Mijnboer.be), we just had to reach out for a chat with Karel-Jan Vercruysse, partner at deJuristen to talk about their company, disruption and the digital transformation of the legal profession.
deJuristen is a Belgian law firm, founded in 2009, that likes to define itself as ‘not the umpteenth traditional player’. Founder Matthias Dobbelaere-Welvaert and partner Karel-Jan Vercruysse position the company as a legal niche consultancy business, which allows them to be more efficient and effective as a law firm.
“Our competitors are traditional law firms. The legal profession is a sector that has been built upon a firm historical heritage and tends to stick with its traditions, values and the known standards. At deJuristen we don’t have a feel for this way of working and choose to operate distinctively. We avoid legal terminology, our communication is contemporary and recognizable, and we love to integrate new technologies – like TeamLeader – in our processes” says Karel-Jan.
People often proclaim that we’re a disruptive player in the legal sector, but to be really disruptive – I guess – we should even take things up a notch.
Some great examples of the implementation of (new) technology in the core business of deJuristen are CookieLaw and Mijnboer.be. The former is a free app which makes it easy to check out the different European legislations concerning cookies, the latter is an online marketplace for consumers and local farmers to connect with each other.
“An important part of our clients are IT companies, web businesses and internet entrepreneurs. Much like them, we’re an internet company too. I’d even describe ourselves as entrepreneurs first, and lawyers in the second place. And that’s something that our clients truly appreciate because we look at things the same way they do. We understand the specific needs of an entrepreneur and his or her sector. Keeping that in mind, initiatives like CookieLaw and Mijnboer.be are just the outcome of our entrepreneurial and digital mindset.” Karel-Jan says.
The two most important drivers of digital transformation in Legal
In our book Digital Transformation – A Model to master Digital Transformation, we’ve come up with the seven metaphors or powers that are key in the digital transformation of organizations. We asked Karel-Jan which ones he sees as the two most important drivers in the legal sector.
“The two most important elements of digital transformation in the legal profession have to be – undoubtedly – The Glass House and The Cyborg. Transparency has been a taboo in law firms for centuries. Legal terminology, for instance, has been introduced just to make sure that outsiders didn’t have a clue of what lawyers were talking about. Nowadays people do not put up with this anymore and expect a service that is nothing less than top-notch, like it’s the case in other service industries. The customer is always right, or the customer moves elsewhere” Karel-Jan says about The Glass House.
“And it isn’t any better when it comes to The Cyborg” the partner of deJuristen continues. “At the very moment we speak, modern day technology is still being banned as much as possible from the traditional legal companies.”
Karel-Jan does, however, see a silver lining for the legal sector when he’s asked about what the industry will look like in 5 to 10 years.
“We won’t be the only one anymore by then, which is the case right now in Belgium. More law firms will move away from the traditional approach and towards a straightforward way of offering great service to clients. And that’s something we can only encourage because companies, entrepreneurs and consumers have the right to receive fast, transparent and clear provision of services. Even when it comes to legal services.”
For closure, could you tell us your ‘secret to success’? You combine your job as partner at deJuristen with spinning records as a deejay (Nathaniel), managing a music label (The House Academy), a design company (SEEEN), and you’re a renowned name in the event industry. What are, for you, the most important elements throughout the different things you do?
“I think that communication is one of the utmost important things in doing business. Unfortunately, that’s where the sticking-point lies for many entrepreneurs. The perception towards your proposition just changes in such a positive way if you’re able to communicate in an open, clear and creative way. That’s why I also believe that the visual aspect is highly underrated. People will think in different ways about you (or your business) when the things you show them look great. And that applies to everything: from how you present yourself on social media, your logo’s and letterheads over newsletters to brochures or even your exhibition stands. Making it look good is half the battle, adding killer content to that makes you win the war” according to Karel-Jan.
The legal profession needs to acknowledge that times are changing. Don’t be stubborn. Consumers have different needs and demands and offering a better service will become more and more important in the near future. New competitors without rusted legacies are already penetrating the market and harm your business as you’re not able to adapt to the new – digital – world. The threats of getting bypassed and being cut out are already occurring right now. It’s up to the traditional businesses to keep their eyes open for opportunities, think proactively about ways to cope with new technologies and embrace new trends like deJuristen do.
We also wrote about anticipating these changes caused by digital in our book on Digital Transformation. There is no way around it, the time of not believing is over.