Having just posted a blog on the Legal Services Act 2007 - specifically, the changes that a deregulated legal industry might bring about for our law practices, I remembered that Richard Susskind, at a recent interview which was broadcast at the Computers & Law conference last year, predicted a rosy future for small specialist law firms. In his view clients perceive value in expertise, and are happy to pay for it, but see less benefit in the work done for them at more junior levels which tend to be at expensive hourly charge rates.
If anyone knows the interview I am referring to, or knows more about Richard Susskind’s thoughts on this or, indeed, has their own views on this, I would love to hear your comments.
Azrights is focused on innovation, in that if there is one sector of the legal market I would like to better satisfy it is what Richard Susskind describes as the “latent market”. Finding cost effective solutions appeals because the latent market is by far the largest market, and not one that is overcrowded, in terms of law firms chasing after it.
Reducing reliance on one to one consultancy model.
One very simple way we are reducing reliance on the one to one consultancy model is by developing products. We produced one on SEO recently, and are following with two more next month: one on commissioning a website, and the other on website compliance.
Unlike the businesses selling contract templates we aim to also educate about the surrounding commercial context. So our products give extensive video tutorial explanations about the pitfalls and issues to be aware of before engaging given services. We also provide a general interest explanation about contracts in general, as well as talking about the particular contract template that is the subject of the product. We cover key issues such as how it is not necessary to sign a document to be bound in contract, what happens if you think you are agreeing terms when in law your contract is already formed, the purpose of contracts, when long legalistic contract templates may be appropriate and when they are not, how one sided contracts are based on the assumption that the parties will negotiate the terms, which may be inappropriate for small businesses who expect to just sign the document that is placed before them, etc etc.
Use of multi media
Another way in which we are innovating, is through use of multimedia to service our existing clients. For example, during trade mark registration, we often find that despite explaining legal principles in simple plain English letters, some of our trade mark clients either do not read the letters closely enough, or for some other reason do not grasp key issues about the law and procedure.
When time is money, the need to re-explain points to lots of different people, becomes expensive. But on the other hand, clients who purchase a fixed price trade mark registration service might take a dim view if we were to try charging them for extra time just to have something explained to them so they can provide further instructions, such as about how many classes they will proceed with, for example.
So, for us, it was a logical step to deliver some of our explanations by video and podcast. This works because it takes far less time to produce one podcast or video than to explain something ten, twenty or more times – or worse still, have confused clients who do not really feel they received an adequate explanation.
As people differ, it stands to reason that some will be more receptive to receiving information through the spoken word than through the written form. So, a fairly easy change in fact revolutionises legal services, because it reduces the need for one to one consultancy time, while delivering more value to the client.
I would love to hear what others think about the issues I have raised here, and on my own blog, and how they are responding to the future.