Monday, August 15, 2011
From a post called "What Lawyers Can Learn from LegalZoom" at the Lawyering Blog:
In the new, competitive environment that solos and small law firms face in the current economy, the keys to law firm survival are to expand the strategic options available by opening new client markets, reducing the cost of services, and delivering legal services in a way that distinguishes your firm from other firms in the pack. These strategic options should be mixed with more traditional approaches to differentiation such as specialization within a niche practice area.
It is time for solos and small law firms that offer personal legal services to the broad middle class to rethink their law firm business models. There are many opportunities for incorporating some of the elements of the LegalZoom business model into a more traditional law practice.
To name a few:
- Consider offering "unbundled" limited legal services at a fixed price, both on-line and off-line;
- Leverage a reputation in your local community and a physical office into an on-line brand that is both local to your community and extends throughout your state;
- Add virtual law office functionality to your web site so that your clients can have the option of interacting with you on-line;
- Figure out ways of using Internet-based technologies, such as web-enabled document automation to strip out costs from your overhead structure increasing profitability;
- Figure out how to segment the market offering lower priced services for more routine matters in order to build trust so that when a client has amore complex problems they will turn to you for assistance;
- Emphasize all of the advantages of using an attorney over a non-lawyer forms provider in your marketing materials and your elevator speech. Click here to see one such comparison.
- Use web-based technologies to respond to both prospects and clients within hours rather than days.
- Reduce the perceived risk that consumers have in retaining a lawyer by increasing transparency and structuring forms of performance guarantees.
- Adopt project management technologies to better estimate costs and fees on more complex projects, translating that data into communications that clients understand.
The current depressed economy and its affect on the broad middle class is not going to change tomorrow. It is likely that solos and small law firms, will have to adjust to new pricing and market realities in the future as competition from non-lawyer providers of legal solutions continues to increase. Large law firms serving large corporations may be immune from these developments, at least for a few years any way, but the fact that Big Law is changing relatively slowly should not mask the rapid changes happening to solos and small law firm practitioners that serve consumers and small business.
I heard a report the other day that the volume of wills and estates practice in one state declined by 50% during the past year. I predict that this trend will continue and not reverse itself, despite any improvements in the economy.
Welcome to the "new normal."
Hat tip to Meg Chandelle.