Qualmet, a startup based in Louisville, Kentucky, is banking on the idea that corporate clients will pay to compare notes about working with different law firms—and that law firms will pay to learn from those ratings.
So far, Qualmet has netted a handful of in-house customers, including Atria Senior Living and CafePress. But notably, no law firms have purchased subscriptions.
“Are law firms doing this? The answer is a resounding ‘no’” said Jim Beckett, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
The company, which was funded partly through Dentons’ legal tech incubator Nextlaw Labs, gives companies a platform to score and then contrast outside lawyers and their firms on a subjective basis—considering cost but also their level of innovation, understanding of business objectives, and such intangibles as conversational abilities. For law firms, a subscription would offer customized reports that include their own scores from clients, as well as scores for their rivals. That information could be particularly useful for firms negotiating or renegotiating rates, Beckett said.
Beckett said he expects law firms to begin signing on to the service soon enough.
“Law firms are fighting for market share,” he said. They’ll eventually see the need for “a deeper level of conversation” about their performances using Qualmet’s metrics, Beckett said.
But Daniel Katz, an associate professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology, said many law firms will be slow to embrace new data systems for ranking legal services.
In general, law firms are used to making their decisions in “a data-free environment,” said Katz, who studies legal technology and innovation.
In contrast, corporate clients are quickly warming to new services that quantify and rank legal services.
“It’s a cultural divide,” Katz said about the difference between corporate clients and their law firms.
Qualmet’s Beckett, however, said he sees enthusiasm growing for his startup’s product, including from outside law firms. Where? Among the online inquiries his website receives. They are frequently from operations professionals at law firms, he said.
Both outside lawyers and their clients recognize that relationships are about more than cost in the long run, Beckett said, and they’ll come to welcome more subjective ranking systems like Qualmet’s.
“Costs are not the complete picture of value,” he said.