The legal industry is one steeped in tradition. Like our elders who will never give up on the feel of a newspaper for an iPad app, law firms that have been around since the year dot turn a blind eye to advances in technology and changing consumer behaviour, instead choosing to nurture convention. For them, the question is; how long can they cling to the traditional business model and get away with it?
‘They have failed to observe the increasing commoditisation of services in the digital age’
An industry that refuses to evolve with the times, is one that leaves the door open for disruption. But it might not be that simple here. We’re seeing increasing evidence that the legal industry is diverging; the old and the new, sitting side-by-side serving their respective client counterparts. Now, tech savvy clients are encouraging the rise of virtual law firms while other players are finding ways to make documents and information more transparent in the digital age.
Even the amount of people using the internet to choose a law firm is said to have increased by 45 per cent over the last 5 years. Now, it’s expected that 50 per cent of potential clients search for a lawyer online.
So while the traditionalists within the industry will probably be some of the last professionals to let go of the neck tie, they might also struggle to let go of this old adage: ‘time is money.’ Stuck on the precept that clients ‘buy their time,’ they have failed to observe the increasing commoditisation of services in the digital age. Whether it be fees for insurance or mechanical services, there’s a growing demand for instant fee comparison services; fast outdating the legal sector’s elusive ‘six-minute increment’ charging model for tasks of undefined time.
‘Traditional services are not meeting the wants and needs of the modern consumer’
And this spelled ‘opportunity’ for practising corporate lawyer, Melissa Sinopoli, who recognised that traditional services are not meeting the wants and needs of the modern consumer:
“Being a lawyer myself but also coming from a business background means I knew there was an opportunity to provide consumers with what they want; that being instant access to legal quote 24/7, but also to allow lawyers to access that market of clients which is googling for lawyers online,” said Melissa.
That opportunity found itself in her start-up LawyerQuote which provides businesses with a questionnaire, developed by practicing lawyers and designed to give businesses immediate fixed fee quotes in their local area. The questionnaire covers over 100 legal matters for businesses including: Employment Contracts, Privacy Policies, Terms and Conditions, Hire Agreements, Supply Agreements, Confidentiality Agreements and Property Leases.
“We found a gap in the market for an instant legal fee comparison services in Australia and also overseas,” said Melissa.
‘The market is now saturated with law firms and businesses will shop around’
And the rationale is simple. Melissa explains that the legal industry has been shrouded in mystery for years. According to her, the market is now saturated with law firms and businesses will shop around for their legal services.
Melissa said: “As a result, law firms have to give businesses what they want – which is transparency and reasonable, competitive pricing.
“It’s all about saving them time as they don’t have to call around several lawyers to compare quotes. They can do it instantly, and it provides them with certainty as to exactly what they will get and for what price.”
The industry is diverging; the old and the new, sitting side-by-side serving their respective client counterparts.
While conceding that many law firms, inevitably, will not be interested in LawyerQuote because it doesn’t fit with their pricing structure or strategy, Melissa believes many others will indeed embrace the benefits:
“It saves them time getting all the initial information from a new client and trying to work out what fee to charge them and allows them to access the segment of the market which is searching for lawyers online,” said Melissa.
‘There will continue to be pressure on law firms to innovate’
The legal industry may be at a point of divergence as more and more new businesses found themselves on the needs of the modern consumer; but for traditional models that have so far refused to budge, there’s a clear message from Melissa:
“There will continue to be pressure on law firms to innovate and do things differently to stay relevant and differentiate themselves with clients.
“Technology will be a significant driver. We will also see non-legal businesses continuing to try to tap into the legal market, putting further pressure on firms. For example, many large accounting firms are now offering legal services and see it as a part of their growth strategy.”