Business Strategy

The danger of being comfortable: Law

The practice of law is feeling the disruption of technology innovation. Back before Google made searching for information simple, anyone seeking legal answers or advice had no choice but to talk to a lawyer. With so many types of law, though, knowing a lawyer you could ask for help wasn’t necessarily a guarantee that you could get answers without paying for an expert in what you were seeking.

Once Google came on the scene, suddenly anyone could search for legal answers on their own and for free. With access to information came the confidence that the average joe didn’t need to hire a lawyer unless it was for creation of a legal document or involved actually going to court. Lawyers started feeling the impact with fewer and fewer people seeking out advice and consultations. Quora made things even more difficult by offering a platform by which people could pose questions to professionals and get free answers.

Enter LegalZoom in 2001, and then things really changed. LegalZoom standardized personal and business legal documents to sell at the fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer. Many people were immediately satisfied with the ability to get generic documents with their names and details plugged in without the headache of dealing with a lawyer charging them by the hour. It spoke volumes about the state of legal practice when people preferred to risk signing a generic legal document that potentially sacrificed some of their rights or protections instead of hiring a lawyer.

Since then, LegalZoom and other services like it have simply grown in popularity as the masses have become more nonchalant about law. People pull generic privacy policies, NDAs, cease-and-desist letters, and the like from what they can find on Google and are satisfied that what they’ve copied is good enough to hold up in court. The reality is, though, that there’s no replacement for a lawyer assessing the situation and tailoring advice or a document directly to the client’s needs. “Good enough” isn’t always good enough, especially if things get messy.

So, how do lawyers compete in a world where people are content with good enough?

The legal industry needs high-quality, efficient case management software to streamline their processes. If there’s less time wasted on paperwork for a client, a lawyer can easily charge a lower rate to compete with DIY online solutions. This is a market where the players are notoriously weak: Needles, Clio, MyCase, and others. Case management software is terribly behind when it comes to being fast, intuitive, and customizable. If lawyers are to have a chance at lowering their overhead and administrative costs, the technology to make it happen must be excellent.

It’s also time for lawyers to start thinking outside of the box regarding how they deliver their services. With so many cheap, generic options out there, no one wants to pay an open-ended hourly rate to someone unless it’s unavoidable. Many industries have adopted virtual and on-demand models. The legal field could adapt to these methods pretty easily with the right apps in place. By offering more highly valued services in a manner that is as headache-free as LegalZoom, lawyers can preserve their practices and their income.

Are you a lawyer who has not yet adopted a great technology system? Do you have an idea for a new way of offering your services to potential clients? We would love to help. Reach out to us here, and let’s chat.

By Emily Hart