LawPay’s acquisition of MyCase highlights an industry doubling down on building platforms, not tools. Is this what lawyers want? I don’t know. Is it what they need? Sure, some of them.
It’s inherently difficult to build and maintain an all-in-one law practice management system (LPMS) like MyCase. By its very nature, it doesn’t integrate with many other providers. That’s the point, though—it shouldn’t have to integrate with anything—it should all be built-in. This creates a single platform for users to run their practices.
Alternatively, life as an add-on product like LawPay can be a fickle existence. Yes, your value is determined by how well you serve your customer, but it also depends on how well you integrate into the rest of your customer’s Legal Tech Stack.
With that, LawPay’s acquisition of MyCase makes sense. MyCase gets an exceptional payment processor, while LawPay gets basically everything else. LawPay is now in the LPMS game, which is fair play at this point.
The Particular Case of MyCase
The challenge for an all-in-one is that the quality of your system rises and falls based on your worst asset. This quality isn’t usually measured against your direct competitors. You’re measured against the providers of each aspect of your platform. That’s not to say that you have to be the best—but you have to be competitive (i.e. MyCase’s internal communication platform will have to be comparable to Slack).
MyCase has to either build or buy high-quality versions of each aspect of its platform to stay at the forefront of the industry. This explains the purchase of Soluno, CASEpeer, Woodpecker, and obviously includes ePayments (LawPay).
Yes, MyCase has its own payment processor, but they still integrate with LawPay because LawPay is the leader. But, when you’re trying to build an all-in-one platform, you want to avoid integrations if you can. And even better, you want to build or buy the leader (or, in this case, have the leader buy you).
What LawPay Acquires with MyCase
It turns out there’s a lot of money to be made in credit card processing. LawPay is now seeing many competitors enter the market (Clio, PracticePanther, Filevine, CosmoLex, and even TimeSolv, to name a few). Although LawPay currently has a competitive advantage—their features are generally ahead of the rest—how long will that last?
LawPay excels at making it easy for law firm clients to pay their bills. The problem is, LawPay relies on other products to handle all the remaining aspects of running a firm. In the end, they are an add-on—a really good one—but still an add-on.
So, what happens when the products you integrate with no longer need to integrate? More importantly, what happens when the 300-pound centaur in the room starts in on your market?
Well, if you’re not trying to increase your integration ability, then you’ve either gotta build it or buy it. And if you can afford it, MyCase will provide just about everything needed to remain a leader in a fast-growing legal tech market. When LawPay acquires MyCase, they gain a platform.
What Does This Mean?
Setting the specifics of this particular deal aside, we are in a time of rampant acquisition. Legal tech providers are moving away from building a single tool and more toward building a platform. Even the king of integration, Clio, is starting to bring much of their functionality in-house.
This makes sense. Platforms are sticky. The platform upon which you run your practice is not fungible. The tool you use to track your time and billing, however, is.
Unfortunately, the practice of law is not a monolith. I’ve yet to see two attorneys who approach their operations similarly. More importantly, though, lawyers don’t like being told how to practice—even if it’s right. The more insular these platforms get, the less customizable they become for a user’s particular needs. (That’s just the nature of limiting choice.)
Yet, there’s something about being able to piece together my own platform from individual, discrete, well-built tools that resonates with to me. And although I’m not their ideal customer, I don’t think I’m the only one. To be clear, LawPay’s acquisition of MyCase doesn’t worry me. They are both responsive to their customer needs, and do a great job of remaining as versatile as possible. I’m just mourning the loss of choice. But, as I said earlier, less choice, and less complexity is a good thing for a lot of lawyers.