I recently learned about a new platform, PERSUIT, designed to rethink how clients buy outside counsel and other legal services. Jim Delkousis, a former DLA Piper partner and Founder & CEO of PERSUIT, and I initially spoke in July. I saw the platform and we had some conversations.
I decided to interview Jim about the platform, below. I was intrigued because the last time I saw anything similar was over 15 years ago and that was an earlier era when both the tech and thinking was very different. As always in circumstances when providers contact me and I decide to write about it, I do not search for or evaluate potentially competing products or services.
Ron: What is PERSUIT and who is the target market?
Jim: PERSUIT is a real-time outside counsel and legal services provider sourcing platform for GCs, in-house attorneys, and legal operations and procurement professionals. Our goal is to enable clients to save 20%+ on their external legal spend by making it easy to obtain pricing which is competitive, comparable and certain.
What are the benefits for clients?
Our design and technology significantly streamlines the process of seeking and reviewing proposals for services. That process, by making increased competition easier, also reduces the cost of services purchased. Today, many tasked with sourcing legal services deal with multiple RFPs and then deal with spreadsheet ‘hell’ trying to compare proposals. Clients can draft a simple query or create a full scope of work and send it (just like an email) to their preferred people via PERSUIT. An invited firm or other provider responds on our platform. Because those entries are highly structured and responsive to what a client has asked for, it is much easier for clients to compare and evaluate (by way of an ‘at a glance comparator’ and a scorecard feature) proposals. Housing all the data relevant to each RFP in one place also enables clients to harness that data for compliance purposes and future decision making.
What are the benefits for law firms?
We simplify the process for firms responding to RFPs. The firm can share the RFP internally and collaborate on the PERSUIT platform before responding. Firms can also see which questions clients will be comparing the answers to, which means firms can focus more time and thought on those questions as well as those that describe their services and differentiate them. The firms also have the opportunity to collaborate with clients at the scoping stage and, because it is easy for clients to invite additional firms to receive an RFP, get a chance to pitch when they otherwise might have missed out altogether.
What is PERSUIT’s place in the legal spend management ‘ecosystem’?
PERSUIT is an RFP and bidding platform that integrates with an organization’s e-billing and matter management solutions. We focus on up-front scoping and competitive bidding before a matter starts. This prospective approach can save more than 20%. In contrast, e-billing and matter management systems focus on monitoring spend during and at the end of a matter. Data we see suggests that savings with the latter are no more than 5-10%.
What is some early user feedback?
We’ve had some encouraging early feedback. Here are some examples from client organizations:
- ‘It’s intuitive, saves time by providing a ready comparison of options by phase and is elegantly simple. Simple is hard – at least hard to do well’.
- ‘We are under pressure to show, with data, what we’re doing to reduce external legal spend, and we’ve struggled. With PERSUIT, I can now see how we can’
- ‘I can see how we can scale PERSUIT to the hundreds of in-house counsel within our organization who regularly engage with outside counsel’
Have you heard issues, concerns, or objections, either from early users or companies you have approached?
It is fair to say that some organizations are reluctant to adopt competitive practices to their external legal spend. The most common excuses we hear are (1) we’re comfortable with our go-to firm. They know us and it’s easier to just send them the work (2) we’re too busy to deal with RFPs (3) we’ve recently introduced new technology to the team, and we’re worried about ‘change fatigue’ and (4) our panel firms might not like it. They might think it’s a race to the bottom.
PERSUIT is intended to assist in changing behavior. Human factors always dictate people’s response to the new, sometimes unfamiliar. PERSUIT offers a new approach to buying legal services. We see a correlation between good external legal spend practices and openness to PERSUIT. We have found, however, that absent organizational motivation to change, it’s better to move on.
Where do you hope the business will be in three years and what its impact will be?
The ‘go-to’ platform for large organizations to optimize their entire external legal spend. (No surprises there!) . PERSUIT has the opportunity to significantly improve the legal purchasing process and reduce legal spend. More confident scoping, increased use of AFAs, and organizational clarity around decisions and performance will be the foundation for future spending decisions in a continually evolving, refined process.
Does PERSUIT have any direct competition that you know of? If so, how does it compare?
There are existing enterprise-wide procurement platforms which organizations sometimes use for buying legal services. But those are not tuned for legal so typically used only in procurement and not by lawyers. Nor do those systems make life easy for law firms.
We designed PERSUIT to meet the needs of law departments, procurement, and law firms. Our approach supports easy, multi-stakeholder, up-front collaboration and scoping tailored to the specific requirements of legal, which is a big difference from general procurement approaches.
We also have some direct competitors.
How did the idea of PERSUIT come to you?
There were three main factors. First was the obvious absence of best practice sourcing in the legal spend space. Second was the universal trend towards digitizing buyer/seller relationships across the economy. Third, we saw the need for evidence-based and data-driven decision making which an on-line platform enables. With cost pressures continuing and relationship importance declining, the data will become more important over time.
How big a role does tech play in PERSUIT? That is, would you say you are primarily a tech business? Or is there also a big service element?
PERSUIT is a legal tech company. We support enterprise clients by providing a solution to competitively source and optimize their entire external legal spend. Our service element is focused around onboarding clients with our tech solution. We also partner with consultants that service those clients, in particular, those who advise on how to improve the operational efficiency of the in-house legal department.
Do you have a roadmap you can share with other services / features you might offer?
Our design process involves continuous user feedback, concept testing, feature releases and iteration. The product is never ‘finished’, and default customer expectation across all on-line platforms is that improved customer experience and value is ongoing (as it should be). Our longer-term vision is to provide representative pricing for the type of legal services required. And finally, we’re exploring the potential to develop PERSUIT for professional services beyond legal.