Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Future of the Legal Profession

25.09.07 Ruminations on the future of law and the legal profession

 An interesting report was produced by the Lord Chancellor's Department in 2006 that stated 'much legal work has the potential…to be systematised and automated and later to be packaged as online services or products and made widely available on the World Wide Web without the need for interaction between client and lawyer’

It is clear that the drafting of a wide range of standard contracts and agreements will fall within this, and that these traditional services will be replaced by online services. There is an enormous hole that is quite apparent in the legal market that has been called the 'latent legal market', referring to the innumerable situations in people's domestic and working lives when they need legal help. With the LSC gradually destroying the remnants of the legal aid system, more and more people are dependent on insurance products and the like to sort out their legal disputes.

The internet is going to become almost a battle ground as different business models vie for success. One possible approach would be the development of a website that functioned as a central reference point for anyone seeking information or advice on a legal problem, including general information, expert systems or intelligent checklists enabling a 'DIY legal service', and one-to-one advice online from a lawyer. Obvious content areas for such a site would be high street law, but also other areas such as financial advice are likely to be added in.

The legal services market is worth over £20 billion pounds in the UK. However there are still very few law firm websites that are any good or useful at attracting customers into firms.

Although the online legal market is a relatively new and as yet under developed area of ecommerce, it is possible to show levels of demand using just one demographic example. As the UK population increasingly ages, the 50+ age bracket now makes up the second largest group, or more than 20% of internet users. With much more time on their hands and an increasing wish to solve their legal problems using self-help tools, there is a potentially healthy and growing client base online.

This inevitable change in traditional legal practice in the UK and elsewhere was further suggested by the entry of supermarkets into the financial services industry. Although it has been joked about in legal circles for several years now, 'Tesco law' is already becoming a reality. Changes in legal practice regulations over the last couple of years and Clementi Report recommendations have now made this and other inroads the legal field a distinct possibility.

Tesco's and the RAC certainly think there is much scope and want to break into the world of soliciting big time! Who will be first to corner this market? Quite obvious really unless law firms decide to buck their ideas up and start looking at the future rather than the past.

A recent survey of law firm websites concluded 'when it comes to content - the crucial ingredient - they are deficient to the point of negligence' (Edward Fennell, The Times Law Report, 11th May 2004).

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