Israel is a quirky place in general, and its legal market is no different.
When I say contract lawyer or legal outsourcing, you would not be wrong to immediately think of India. But soon, you might also think Israel.
Israel is a quirky place in general, and its legal market is no different. For one thing, associates in Israeli Biglaw firms are pulling in about a third of what they make in the U.S., despite Israel’s high (and rising) cost of living. And they’re not giving a hometown discount because they’re so happy practicing law. In fact, studies consisting of nothing more than my own anecdotal evidence show that Israeli Biglaw associates share most of the same work/life balance complaints as their U.S. counterparts, and, despite its reputation as the Startup Nation, the culture of the legal profession is just as stodgy and conservative as it is anywhere else. You would think Israelis would get the memo, skip law school and learn how to write computer code, but instead Israel has the highest number of attorneys per capita in the world.
For the chosen people, we sure make curious career choices.
But Lawflex founder Jackie Donner thinks Israeli lawyers should be able to have their cake and eat it too. And, because Israel is quirky, Donner sees a bigger opportunity in play.
Almost a year ago to date, Donner joined forces with partner Zohar Fisher, a lawyer and legal marketer, and launched Lawflex, the first contract lawyer service in Israel, which I covered here. A year later, the firm has recruited over 70 lawyers and is working with around 30 law firms. Often, law firms in Israel, both big and small, need a French, British or U.S. based lawyer. Now, some of those firms reaching out to Lawflex instead. I caught up with Jackie recently to understand the potential of the Israeli market.
“People often move to Israel for ideological reasons, not economic ones,” says Donner. “This means, you can have lawyers who graduated from Harvard and Columbia who are moving to Israel to essentially make less money, but for a variety of reasons don’t want to work in Israeli Biglaw.” And herein lies the bigger opportunity for Israel as an outsourcing market: highly qualified lawyers at more than reasonable rates.
Although Lawflex was inspired by companies in the alt.legal space like Axiom and Legal Managed Services, it doesn’t yet have their size or sophistication. Unlike those two companies, the lawyers who work for Lawflex are not full time employees. And that’s fine by Jackie, an actively engaged mother who understands the challenges of being both a parent and a lawyer. “I want to build a place where lawyers can come and work as few or as many hours as they choose,” she tells me. Lawflex actively markets itself as a lifestyle player for lawyers who are burnt out from the grind but still want to do good legal work. The “flex” in the company’s name applies to both the firms who need to flex their workforce muscle during busy times and the Flexlawyers, some of whom are now making more than they were at big firms.
At the moment, the company’s focus is Israel, but listening to Jackie and reading interviews with her elsewhere, one gets the sense that she and Fisher are ready to think about making outsourcing legal to Israel a global business. Obviously, Israel will never come close to the numbers put up by India, but Lawflex is betting the quality and pedigree of their lawyers can get them a seat at the table.