John Croft is one of the leading innovators in the legal services industry and he's not a lawyer. He has spent the last 30 years helping law departments and law firms improve their efficiency, quality, and outcomes. While as President and Co-Founder of Elevate, John spends most of his time working with our customers, he is also acutely focused on the culture and diversity of the law company. He also chairs the Elevate Advisory Board. Prior to co-founding Elevate, John served as President at Integreon, where he led business development efforts and managed existing clients on a global basis. During this time there, he grew the company’s revenue from $12 million in 2005 to $150 million in 2011.Previously, he was CEO of the financial and legal outsourcing division of ADP Inc. Before that, John was European sales director for the financial and legal division of St. Ives Plc.
John Croft, President and founder of Elevate
We recently sat down with John Croft, the president and founder of Elevate, and discussed his motivation for forming Elevate and some of the biggest pain points in the corporate legal sector. We also discussed how larger organizations could ensure that their legal teams work harmoniously with other departments and the type of services that Elevate offers.
John is one of the best and top innovators in the modern legal services industry. He has spent the last 30 years helping many law departments and big law firms enhance and improve not just their efficiency but also their quality and outcomes. John is not a lawyer and always wanted to be a business person, though he didn’t know exactly what it meant. John grew up in Oxford among academic people. John has worked with lawyers his entire career.
John ended up at Elevate because from his first job, he was selling products and services to lawyers to help them do their job more efficiently and effectively and achieve better outcomes. One of John’s biggest achievements is that he has maintained or retained the same customer base, selling services to lawyers for 35 years. However, what has changed considerably over the years is the type of products that he is selling to lawyers and how he has been able to help them.
At Elevate, professionals like John are trying to crack the lack of diversity in the legal sector, addressing the equitability and inclusion side of things.
What are the biggest pain points in the corporate legal sector?
What triggered John to launch Elevate was the fact that there were only two ways of doing things in the corporate legal sector. The first one involves having your own or in-house legal team write the contracts and take care of other contract management responsibilities. On the other hand, you pick up the phone and engage the services of a law firm, which is a conventional partnership.
John realized that other people were coming up with new ways to do this legal work and getting on top of things, such as contract management. For example, some of them were running legal consulting businesses. Others were running flexible lawyer businesses, legal tech businesses, and legal outsourcing businesses. So, a lot of people were coming up with new ways of tackling the same problem.
So, John decided to form a company that would offer all of these diverse services to lawyers under one roof. However, before the existence of Elevate, no company was offering all these services to lawyers. So, John’s plan was to develop a solution that entailed offering three services, which are consulting, managed services, and legal technology.
For the first service, the company would work as a consultant that would come in and help define what the problem is and design a solution. With respect to the second service, Elevate would do all the contract management work for the client. With respect to the third service, Elevate would help provide technological assistance to help with contract creation and storage.
The aim of Elevate is to improve efficiency in the corporate legal sector by helping law firms and law departments become more efficient, for example, by structuring more efficiently.
Tips for segregated or larger organizations to ensure that their legal team is working harmoniously with other departments
In recent years general counsels of large and leading corporations have been forced to become more accountable to the CEO. However, in John’s opinion, legal tech is still considered a threat or something new in the new department. And this is different from the way professionals perceive accounting systems, such as SAP, in the finance department.
One of the best tips for organizations is that they should not consider legal tech or technological changes as threats. He thinks that humans have a tendency to resist change, which is natural. However, legal tech should be embraced in organizations of all sizes as it can help them considerably. Also, it is worth noting that the next generation of lawyers will be digital natives who will not be threatened by tech changes. This is why embracing change is even more important in the future.
Services that don’t necessarily have to be performed by lawyers
Elevate has set out to tackle the business of law problems rather than the practice of law problems. This is why Elevate will not brand itself as a company that clients can use to represent themselves in court. Rather, the company will help organizations with things like sorting through massive amounts of data to find valuable information that lawyers can work with. The company can also work in the capacity of a project manager to make sure that a project is completed on time and within budget.
Another service that does not necessarily have to be performed by lawyers is legal operations. In the past, the concept of legal operations did not exist, and lawyers worked in their own way. These lawyers did things slightly differently as no process was in place to ensure consistency.
However, John thinks that things have changed, and now “legal operations” is not just respected but is essential for any organization. John thinks that now you have to run your legal department the same way a CFO runs the finance department in any organization or CMO runs the marketing department.
Trends in Legal Tech and Enterprise Software
One of the biggest trends in this space is the digitization of contract management. In the past, contracts were manually written by human beings with a pen. However, by digitizing this process, you can automatically do other things, such as simplify things by creating templates.
For example, equipped with the latest technology, it is possible to take thousands of contracts and interrogate them to see if and where there are any common clauses. In terms of products, there is a trend toward enterprise-level systems. There is a growing demand from the legal and procurement departments of many prominent organizations for an enterprise legal management system.