Legal technology is everywhere, but the advent of automatic document drafting may be of most concern to lawyers, particularly in small firms. The use of technology to draft documents is a real worry because it may reduce the amount you can bill. But before you set yourself against the process, know that the lack of guidance and advice provided with online legal forms may actually keep attorneys in business, according to the Law 360 blog from LexisNexis.
In fact, you can embrace this trend and use it to your advantage. Consider building a practice that supports clients in getting some of their basic needs met by online legal services while relying on you for more complex legal thought. Here are some areas to consider:
Legal documents. People tend to use online legal services for basic documents like succession planning and incorporating papers because it’s cheaper than hiring a lawyer. But it’s becoming clearer to consumers, courtesy of publications like MarketWatch, that while these services are low-cost, there’s a price to be paid for legal services done by machine. You might consider having clients fill in the basics online so you can shape these documents later.
Client education. According to The Law Insider, using online legal sites to explain basic legal principles can make sense: Clients can explore at their leisure, without the fear of being billed for that time. Educating a client is part of an attorney’s job. These sites, and the internet in general, can offer a lower-cost solution.
High-level analysis. The Law Insider also suggests minimizing the time a client spends with an attorney and focusing that time only on higher-level consulting and original, analytical and strategic aspects of legal practice. Firms can charge higher per-hour fees for this more challenging work, while not putting an undue burden on their clients, because much of the drafting time will be spent elsewhere.
To leverage online legal services at your own firm, think about how web offerings might work to supplement your current client services and how you might showcase this option. Viewed as technological support rather than competition, online legal services may help law firms stay profitable and continue to offer meaningful service to clients.
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