Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If You Could Change the Delivery of Legal Service

What would you change?

Are there services you want provided onloine?

Are there services you do not want provided online?

Are there services you would like me to provide that I am not?

How would you like these services provided:  online or not?

Why would you make the changes you listed above?

How would these changes help?

Open forum for my readers - all comments published so long as they try to answer the questions.  This has never really worked by would love to see some response.

I am reading over some tweets in Twitter on a speech given by Richard Susskind  If you have not heard of Richard Susskind (and if you are a lawyer, I suggest you need to know what he is saying about the end of lawyers).  Persoanlly, I agree generally with Susskind but not so sure how it will be accepted by my type of clients - individuals who may not be so tech savvy as the firms which seem the focus of Susskind.

Which is why I am asking the questions above.  I do want to know how people like you would change how well you would accept more collaboration on legal matters (one of Susskind's big ideas) or providing the means to perform your own document preparation online through a service provided by your lawyer.

For more on Susskind, take a look at this and this and this.  Jim Calloway reviews Susskind's 2009 keynote ABA Legal Tech keynote which is where I first heard him.  Carolyn Elefant makes the following points in her Richard Susskind & The End of Lawyers: What It Means for Solos:

Still, while opportunities for solos abound, nonetheless Susskind fears for their future.  He writes:

I fear for the future of very small firms whose work is not highly specialized -- those with a handful of partners or even sole practitoners who are general practitioners.  Unless their clients want to retain them for a highly personalized service, I cannot see how they will be able to compete with alternative methods of sourcing, whether by much larger firms or by alternative providers....

The current model at the Bar -- the self-employed, sole practioner who shares various services with fellow barristers - assumes no gearing,little capacity to multi-source and few mechanisms for hedging against the risks of being a one person band. 
On one level, I disagree with Susskind's predictions.  Just as technology enables us to cut down the cost of legal services while boosting efficiency, it also provides us with the tools to leverage ourselves.  Through use of virtual assistance and outsourcing, we can multi-task and create the precisely the type of  diversification - such as alternative fee structures or ancillary businesses - that provide a hedge against an economic downturn.  Indeed, that's why many of the solos who I know are thriving or at least hanging even as large firms crumble all around us.  Likewise, those solos who provide the kinds of irreplaceable expert niche services are also thriving in the downturn, by providing services in high demand, but at lower costs than their big firm competitors can provide.

Yet as I thought about Susskind's prediction some more, I had to agree to some extent.  Because the solos and small firms whose futures are, in Susskind's view, at risk aren't the ones who are reading this blog or many of the others that have been addressing these trends for several years now (for example, more than four years ago, I identified the pent up demand for low cost consumer legal services and urged lawyers to find ways to deliver them while I anticipated the India outsourcing trend back in 2003).  Some of these firms are so far behind the times, so removed from the 21st century that they can't even comprehend what's happening now, let alone anticipate what's coming.  But that's an inherent problem of trying to effect change through the Internet and blogging and Web 2.0 technologies: at the end of the day, we're really just preaching to the choir.  Perhaps because Susskind's book delivers his revolutionary message in a book the most traditional medium, our potentially endangered solo and small firm colleagues will take notice and listen before it's too late.

Finally and for the non-lawyers, who might wonder what this has to do with them, consider this:  if there are these changes, then who will be providing legal services to you?


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates said...

Sam-Technology is allowing for easy scanning and compiling of all case documents to be available on-line. The CCS already list everything (or should) which could then be used to access documents through hyperlinks. For not for public access information a password could be required.
Tippecanoe County Courts have gone a long way towards this. I would like to see it statewide.
It would also be a significant protection against fire. I can't recall the courthouse that suffered fire and water damage last year but I know it caused case problems because of the damage.

Sam Hasler said...

I meant more about lawyer-client than courts and public because I have something in mind for that subject. Good ideas.