There is a clear trend on the legal market on increased collaboration and knowledge sharing within legal networks, such as Legal OnRamp, but also freely on the internet as part of the commoditisation in the light of the Legal Services Act. Today there are a lot of new sites that provide legal information and documentation openly and for free.
Jordan Furlong has written an interesting article on this subject – ‘The Rise of Client Collaboration’: “Client collaboration is only going to increase in the years to come, as the technology to enable that collaboration continues to improve and as a growing number of formal collaboration communities like Legal OnRamp emerge. And the fact is, lawyers can blame themselves for this potentially widespread disintermediation. It has long bothered clients when lawyers, at substantial cost in their own time and clients’ money, constantly reinvent wheels that have been invented thousands of times before. Clients think that the amount of time a given lawyer spends to complete a task should be inversely proportional to that lawyer’s experience and expertise. Lawyers’ failure to implement this marketplace rule, thanks in no small part to the influence of the billable hour, has only served to encourage clients to look elsewhere for more affordable and accessible sources of legal help. And in growing numbers, they’re turning to each other.”
Does this mean that lawyers will loose all their business? No, hardly, but they will have to find ways of adopting or adjusting to it. The development in the legal market will be towards increased professionalism, standardisation of processes, refinement and focus on core services, with technology as a vital part to support new ways of delivering the services. Law firms that can provide something extra that engages the clients will certainly put themselves at a competitive advantage.
Or, as Jordan Furlong evolves this subject: “So what should lawyers do in the coming age of client collaboration? In the short term, upgrade the nature and sophistication of your offerings, putting them out of reach of the things clients can provide each other. The most valuable aspects of a lawyer’s services are intangibles delivered one-on-one in a trusted relationship – move your practice squarely into that space. In the long-term, embrace the client collaboration movement and make yourself one of its champions. If you can show that you understand the power of client collaboration – and if you can demonstrate to the marketplace that one of the best resources you give your clients is access to your other clients – then you’ll be several steps ahead of the competition and well on your way to running a 21st-century law practice.”