A state bar task force in California recently made headlines after recommending a number of proposals that would change ethics rules in the Golden State. The changes would allow more participation in the legal sector among non-lawyers and tech companies with no direct ties to law practice. The net effect of the rules would be greater competition among players looking to offer legal services outside of the traditional law firm paradigm.
Rule makers in California are experiencing quite a bit of resistance to the concept of opening up the legal profession to outside competition. But what is happening on the West Coast is not new. The number of non-lawyers and non-legal entities offering legal services is steadily growing. Today there are more non-lawyers than ever before offering such services.
So what’s going on? Why is the legal industry so exposed to outside competition these days? One word: technology. The same trend occurring in just about every other sector of the economy has finally hit law.
It Began with DIY
What is now increasingly becoming commonplace in the legal sector began nearly two decades ago with the introduction of DIY law. We are all familiar with that big website that put every day legal matters in the hands of consumers with DIY products including wills, rental agreements, and the like.
DIY law meant that consumers no longer had to pay attorneys hundreds of dollars to prepare a will. They could do it online for less than $50. Consumers could use the same website to draw up rental agreements for their residential properties and service contracts for their small businesses.
Fast-forward to 2019 and we see the mobile revolution pushing the envelope even further. That has created conflict between the traditional legal market and those hoping to change the way legal services are offered through the use of new technology.
More Than Just Software
Software seems to be the foundation of the new legal sector revolution. Companies like Fort Lauderdale-based NuLaw are coming up with exceptional cloud-based technologies covering everything from legal case management to mobile access. NuLaw alone has made quite a difference with a case management application based on Salesforce CRM.
Having said that, the bar in California is among a growing number of organizations coming to grips with the fact that this new revolution is more than just software. It is really about an entirely new mindset that is to the practice of law what outcome-based medicine is to the healthcare sector.
Customer Satisfaction is the Goal
Way back when healthcare reform was being discussed in earnest, lawmakers approached the healthcare industry with the idea of outcome-based medicine. This was a new model that treated patients like customers. It was a model that said to healthcare facilities and doctors that they had a responsibility to make sure patients were satisfied rather than just doling out services and sending bills.
As you know, outcome-based medicine is no longer just a theory. It has been all but forced on the healthcare industry thanks to the passage of the Affordable Care Act nearly a decade ago. The legal sector is facing much the same thing, though not yet through government mandate.
The legal sector has more non-lawyer service providers than ever before because consumers are no longer content to be mere clients. They want and expect their attorneys to treat them like customers. Moreover, they want to be treated like valued customers. Entities outside of the legal sector are capable of meeting those expectation. How about the legal sector itself? Time will tell.