What’s the solution to the online legal form industry?

Online legal form companies and law firmsThere are now lots of online legal form companies out there. The big ones are Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer. For some lawyers, the idea that there are companies out there that sell legal forms causes them a great deal of fear, distress and anguish.

They worry why clients will just purchase a form online versus hiring them. The view of some is that the ability to buy a form online is going to change the way many lawyers will need to price themselves and advertise their services. Otherwise, they believe that their business will be hampered. Many lawyers might even point to a downward spiral into their business as being the result of the legal form industry.

Implicit with this line of thought is that they are competing with Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer and others like them. In other words, they believe that potential clients will either choose them or one of these online form companies. Thus, they begin pricing themselves at a lot lower cost than they had before to compete with them. They also might be tempted to offer limited scope representation (or unbundled legal services) or flat fees to complete with Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer and others like them.

There is no question that Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer generate a lot of business. According to 2011 figures, Legal Zoom had generated $66 million. Rocket Lawyer had generated 29.3 million.  Certainly, one could surmise that those figures have likely gone up since 2011.

But is Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer really your law firm’s competition? Do you really want to base your law firm’s pricing and marketing strategy to compete with these companies and others like them? If a legal consumer is truly fixated on just finding a form, can you ever really drop your price low enough where they will choose you or your law firm over these online form companies? The reality is: Probably not.

Instead of trying to complete with Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer and others like them, do not compete with them at all. In other words, why not offer something completely and totally different? The reality is these online form companies are likely not your competition (or shouldn’t be your competition).  Your competition is (or should be)  other law firms and lawyers in your locality who provide quality legal services.

But if you still believe that you should worry about these online form companies, instead of dropping your prices offering unbundled legal services or offering flat rates, why not focus on the fact that you are a competent, communicative and diligent lawyer who can walk the through all the ins and outs of the particular area of law? Why not focus on the fact that legal matters are serious situations that really require the help of a lawyer? Otherwise, things can get messed up and the client’s life can really go awry. In many instances, you might stress that it might cost the client more money in the law firm to fix problems than if it was done right the first time with the help of a lawyer.

This is the path most lawyers and law firms should go in response. In other words, ignore the legal form companies and just become the best possible lawyer and law firm you can become. If your law firm was a resort, become the five-star resort that really pampers your clients versus the low-budget hotel where the service and treatment is not the same. This makes you something completely different from the online legal form industry.

Put another way, work to try to attract the high-end and sophisticated clients out there who would never even consider using an online legal form for a legal matter.  If you do that, you have nothing to worry about with these online legal form companies.

In the end, many lawyers and law firms take the exact opposite approach that they should take. Instead of really focus on providing excellent service to their clients, they get tempted to drop their prices, offer unbundled legal services or flat rates and they do not really set themselves apart from the legal form industry. This is a mistake that shrewd lawyers and law firms should seek to avoid.

Focus on getting the quality clients who would never even consider using an online legal form in the first place.  If you do that, you will have nothing to worry about with these online legal form companies.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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