LAS VEGAS, January 4, 2021 —LAWCLERK, the leading online marketplace for freelance lawyers, announced the rollout of a subscription based program to boost the working relationship between busy attorneys and a nationwide network of talented freelance lawyers.
I continue to be amazed by how many legal product and service providers don’t seem to grasp the need for simple, intuitive products and services. Products and services that address real pain points of their customers in the legal space. Those who supply consumer products and services get this. And let’s face it, there is a world of difference between how many in legal tech seem to think versus how those in consumer tech view the world.
Legal products and service providers too often create things that are complicated to use. Or “solutions” that don’t address pain points. Instead of providing the proverbial “easy” button, these providers preach training, training, training. They then bemoan the fact that lawyers, many of whom make their living by billing by the hour, don’t want to take the time to get the training. Training that will enable them to use the product or service and understand features that are often obtuse.
If you gotta have a user manual for a product or solution your probably already done for
Consumer product and service providers, on the other hand, say if you gotta have a user manual for a product or solution your probably already done for. This difference in approach was glaring at the recent CES (aka Consumer Electronics Show), which I commented on recently.
Innovative solutions don’t need to be obtuse; they need to address true pain points.
The truth is legal tech doesn’t have to be complicated. Innovative solutions don’t need to be obtuse; they need to address true pain points. A recent example of an innovative solution that does address an actual pain point is the recent subscription service offered by LawClerk. LawClerk was founded by two practicing lawyers, Greg Garman and Kristin Tyler. It calls itself an online marketplace for freelance lawyers. It enables attorneys and firms to hire freelance lawyers for project based work on an as needed basis. And as I have previously noted, it has done very well.
But LawClerk recently looked at the legal landscape and saw a problem lots of firms and, for that matter, freelance lawyers were having. First, there are many qualified lawyers out there who don’t want to practice law full time for whatever reason. Or they don’t want to work full time for a law firm or in-house department. But like the rest of us, they want to have some predictability. They want to be able to predict how much they will work and get paid. If only they could find someone who wanted to hire them on a set part-time or limited basis.
LawClerk also noticed that countless law firms and businesses have legal work that needs to get done on a temporary and ongoing basis. But they can’t justify the cost of hiring someone full time. If they could just find some lawyers willing to work on a part-time or limited basis.
Sounds like a problem waiting to be solved. And on January 4 of this year, LawClerk announced a subscription service that solves it. Here’s how it works. LawClerk’s Subscription Program offers three talent levels with corresponding price points. The attorney can select how much help they need on an ongoing basis in increments of ten hours. The program runs in four week increments and can be canceled with a 30-day notice.
This is just the kind of thinking we need in law. An innovative approach to an old problem.
This is just the kind of thinking we need in law. An innovative approach to an old problem. For law firms, particularly smaller ones, management is often faced with a difficult dilemma. The firm gets a new matter that requires staffing. But the lawyers in the firm are all busy. To staff the case, management faces the Hobbesian choice. It must either pull someone off some other work or hire a lawyer full-time. Neither option is good, especially since most new matters end at some point. If they pull someone off other matters, they then have to repurpose them when the matter ends, causing additional disruption. If management adds a full time lawyer, it risks over capacity later. As a mass tort lawyer in a mid-sized firm, we faced this issue a lot.
All too often, management errs on the side of using existing resources. This, in turn, stretches their lawyers too thin and leaves billable hours on the table. While larger firms can often deal with these issues, small and mid-size firms can’t.
The new subscription model solves that problem with the added benefit of enabling the firm and the freelance lawyer to better budget. And as a recent article by Roy Strom and Thomson Reuters study pointed out, law firms will need to desperately cut expenses to maintain profitability as clients grow more reluctant to accept rate increases.
For businesses, the same problem exists. I asked Tyler if LawClerk was marketing to in-house legal departments who often face similar personnel decisions as law firms. She told me they had tried to but didn’t get much interest from large legal departments. I can see that. But to my way of thinking, there could be a market to smaller businesses with a one or two-person legal department or not one at all. Many smaller businesses don’t have the amount of legal work to justify hiring a full-time lawyer. So they instead turn to outside law firms that can be expensive. LawClerk’s subscription service could be a solution for these smaller businesses.
Kudos to LawClerk for thinking like consumer product providers and coming up with a simple solution. Like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, LawClerk found a way to link those who can and want to supply services with those that need them in a new and different way. In the legal world, product and service providers like Clio and Lit Software are examples of companies that provide easy to use products and services that address a real problem in a real way.
Legal product and service providers often think too much like lawyers and not enough like consumers suppliers
But you have to ask why no one else thought of it. Why? Legal product and service providers often think too much like lawyers and not enough like consumers suppliers. That’s easy since most in the legal product and service supplier space spend most of their time talking to lawyers.
But when you think about lawyers as consumers, you get a different take. We have seen time and time again how different thinking in the nonlegal world results in products and services that people want and will use. They want and use them because they address a pain point in a simple way.
With providers like LawClerk, perhaps now we will see more of this thinking in the legal space.
Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash