Stanford Law School recently invited our own Jay Mandal, Senior Director and Head of the Legal Advice Business at Rocket Lawyer, as a guest lecturer in their Legal Informatics class. He spoke about how attorneys can make money from the latent demand for legal services brought forth by the “Consumer Law Revolution.”
The Stanford class explores how today’s legal practice is undergoing rapid change due to, among other forces, the expanding use of information technology and the globalization of the legal industry. The course familiarizes law students with the next generation of innovative systems and platforms that challenge the way law has been practiced to date, but promise to increase the efficiency of and access to our legal system.
Jay’s lecture addressed four chief questions:
How did the consumer law revolution come about?
What legal issues impede this revolution?
How do we build products to address this latent demand for legal service?
The future of legal services – why and how should lawyers participate?
The U.S. legal services market is worth $300 billion, with $100 billion coming from individuals and small businesses. Jay said the problem is that individuals and small businesses have a difficult time connecting with lawyers with the right specialization and price point. As a result, there is latent demand for even more legal services.
Just who are these potential customers? According to the U.S. Census, there are roughly 240 million adult age individuals. For individuals, legal services are primarily attained by referrals. Often, these services are avoided altogether.
There are 27 million small businesses in the U.S., and 48 percent avoided or postponed getting legal services they needed, according to a Rocket Lawyer survey. Many small businesses remain unincorporated and legally vulnerable.
The unmet legal needs of individuals and small businesses are what have spurred this consumer law revolution. “What both groups want are simple, affordable, and on demand legal services,” Jay explained.
There are three groups of innovative products and platforms that are aiming to meet this need. First, online document assembly products are allowing users to create customized legal documents such as wills, business contracts, and landlord-tenant agreements. Secondly, branded networks – consisting of independent lawyers who choose to associate themselves with an online company such as Rocket Lawyer – offer users the ability to browse and find lawyers online whom meet their needs. Thirdly, lawyer matching and Q&A companies allow users to send requests and ask questions on online platforms to get the help they need from a lawyer.
To stay competitive in the consumer and small business market, legal service providers and companies will need to adopt the latest technologies and platforms to deliver affordable and on-demand legal services. Jay noted that “these technologies, now and in the future, will help providers immediately fulfill a user’s legal needs, but also predict a user’s future legal needs” and include:
Automated document assembly
Online legal marketplaces
Embedded legal technology
Artificial intelligence / intelligent legal services
Big data, facilitating predictive services
“Tomorrow’s successful legal practitioners will need to rethink traditional business models, delivery methods, and the role of attorney-client relationships. Most important of all, attorneys must focus on delivering knowledge and expertise that clients need, regardless of the medium,” Jay noted.
This sums up what we strive for each and every day at Rocket Lawyer — to democratize the law so that everyone who needs it can access it, and by doing so, expand the market so the legal industry can continue to thrive well into the future.