It seems that every week there’s a new app, platform or website that claims to make your life easier in some way. Technology is apparently the solution for everything.
Whether it’s for finding a local beauty salon and booking an appointment or getting competitive bids on a new project, a generation of young techno-brains are working to “disrupt” every market with their innovations.
The practice of law has not escaped such efforts.
Take LegalZoom as just one example of a disruption to the legal market that seeks to empower consumers; one that also reduced demand for legal services from the incumbent firms.
Even though I’m all thumbs with technology, I still try to envisage how it can be used in new ways to make the business of law more successful and efficient. So I look at what the latest developments are with technology and try to relate them to the legal industry.
The “Ultimate” Legal App?
I ask myself questions like, “Will somebody develop an app to help you find a local lawyer that matches up to your wish-list of attributes?”
And then I look for the problems. So I say to myself, “Well, there’s already plenty out there to help them do that. There are websites like Avvo, Yelp and Google for online reviews. There are search engines to help find all the local lawyers.”
Then I challenge that traditional nay-saying thinking: “Younger folk, millennials for example, they don’t want to do all that legwork to find a lawyer. They want an easy solution to help them just pick one. They’re shopping for lawyers like they’re shopping for a pair of headphones on Amazon. The most 5-star reviews wins their custom.”
So I then have to ask myself, “Are the younger generations really so quick to hire a lawyer? Is it really as simple as giving them an app that shows a balanced review score for each of their local law firms?”
Now to be honest, I don’t know what the answer is, without doing some market research.
However, I can make some assumptions. Millennials are no more a homogeneous group than any other generation. I know that folks in my generation do not all choose a law firm in the same way. Some people will make a decision purely on the recommendation of somebody they know. Then there are others who like to take their time and do their research. They take the responsibility of practicing their own due diligence to ensure they hire a law practice that looks after their best interests.
And there are plenty of people who fall somewhere in between the two.
Millennials may have grown up using technology, unlike my generation, but it doesn’t mean they have different expectations at the end of the day.
An app that acts as a legal practice marketplace would have to encompass the whole field or be specific to a niche or practice area.
So we have to think about the audiences. If it’s a general legal marketplace, why would people download that app in the first place? It would need some value for the 99% of the time that the public doesn’t need legal assistance.
The same question applies if it’s a niche or practice area specific app. Why would somebody download it in the first place?
I think those are big stumbling blocks, but they’re solvable. When somebody figures out the ongoing value to include in an app like that, they’ll be able to monetize that as a platform for law firms to market themselves.
A Sticking Point
But there’s still one thing that sticks out for an old-timer like me.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to handle something serious, wouldn’t you want to meet them in person before you hire them? At least, if it was of the minimum of inconvenience to you, for example, they came to your home at the time and date of your choosing, wouldn’t you want to do that before hiring that lawyer?
I mean, if you had the choice between hiring somebody through an app, or meeting them in the situation I just gave you, wouldn’t you choose meeting that lawyer face-to-face?
I don’t think that Millennials are any different in this regard. If a hipster was involved in a serious car accident, do you think they’re more casual about how they hire a lawyer, just because they’re a hipster?
But I also said that Millennials are no more homogeneous than any other generation. For sure there will be some who will just hire a lawyer through an app, no matter how mind-boggling that may be for others to comprehend.
The Marketing Message Is Handed To You
Thinking about this, I realize that it hands you the marketing message that you should be using to differentiate yourself. The message, that is, that should resonate with our potential Millennial hipster client.
You explain in your marketing why you think it’s important for your clients to meet their lawyer face-to-face before hiring them. You make a point of your firm being available to do this at the convenience of the potential client.
You may already do this in your law firm. If so, make the message louder.
The world expects technology to be developed faster and faster to solve all of our problems. There’s always a new app for something. And there will be other disruptions to the legal marketplace.
But there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication to build a trusting relationship. There are – and will always be – plenty of folks who want that.
In fact, you might start to find that people actively seek out real world interactions as a backlash against our technologized isolation from each other.
So keeping it real will enable you to stand out from the competition, even on those new platforms that will emerge. While everybody scrambles to do everything electronically and at the speed of light, your offer of real world interaction will be what makes you different.
If your potential client turns down the offer, that’s fine. It’s being the firm that still values relationships that will make you unique.
In the long-term, it will probably also ensure your endurance, because instead of living or dying by the app, you’ll be cultivating real-world relationships with your clients while your competitors are texting and messaging.
Relationships transcend any platform or technology. They have to be cultivated, but they can persist and strengthen over time.
If I’m serious about building a successful business for the long term, it’s those strong relationships I need to cultivate. I just don’t see how doing that only using an app, without some real-world grounding, could ever achieve that.