Summary: The legal industry has been adapting to a changing marketplace where consumers now control the field.
The Legal industry has been changing from its traditional system of lawyers and law firms to a system that utilizes other sources. Lawyers were the ones to not only deliver legal services but to obtain them as well.
The old legal system was controlled entirely by lawyers. They controlled the regulation, licensure, education, delivery and buy-sell marketplace. Competition affecting this system was absent. Lawyers adhered to a strict set of rules and no one swayed or messed with those rules. Law firms fostered these rules through economic models, reward systems, and profit-per-partner measures. The focus for law firms was on input, such as hours and origination, and less on budget.
Recently, a lot of legal work has been moving from law firms to corporate legal departments. The 2017 Georgetown Report states there is an “erosion of the traditional law firm franchise” where “clients no longer need large law firms to handle many legal tasks.”
Legal consumers, not lawyers, are now in control. Technology has changed how legal services are prepared and delivered, altering the buy-sell marketplace. Consumers want to see transparency, price predictability, choices, competition, and direct access to the lawyers, all of which were not available before.
The legal industry is now supported by business, technological, and legal expertise. Lawyers are no longer the only ones to deliver legal services. Paraprofessionals, other professionals, and technology are able to deliver legal services. Legal industry expert Mark Cohen stated in his Forbes article, “Consumers – not lawyers – determine what is ‘legal,’ whose expertise is required, when it is needed, from what structure/business model it is delivered, and at what price point it is valued.” This places law firms in a tough position. They can no longer make claims of having an elite legal team or top quality legal work without something else to back up their claims. Consumers want that extra evidence to support a law firm’s claims.
Law firms have turned to legal operations teams to collaborate with in order to remain competitive. These legal operations teams are able to provide the transparency, efficiency, cost, accessibility, and more that consumers want. They are also able to take care of possibly the greatest struggle for law firms – customer service. Law firms struggle to deliver top quality customer service that matches their top quality legal work. Being able to be accessible, transparent, and cost-effective is difficult in traditional law firm models, but in the new legal system, these traits are attainable.
Do you think the changes to the industry are a good thing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
To learn more about the technological changes to the legal industry, read these articles:
- Legal Advice and Documents Brought to Public by Technology
- NYLS Introduces the Innovation Center for Law and Technology
- Technology Continues Changing the Legal Industry