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Commoditizing Legal Services

There has been a lot of talk  of commoditizing legal services. Of course, we see a form of commoditization in certain legal niche areas such as collections. I would be interested to hear what other areas of law that people think have moved towards a commoditized model.

While few people may have noticed, there has been a significant push to commoditize commercial contracts. Back in 1995 there were a whole variety of mutual non-disclose agreements that I saw being passed around. There were some similarities, but they were far more different than they were the same. Today, I get clients sending me non-disclosure agreements to review all the time. And, the amount of differences between them has grown extremely small. The amount of time that it takes me to review a non-disclosure agreement or create one has gone from perhaps as much as two hours ten years ago to fifteen minutes today.

And, we see this phenomena occurring across a variety of contracts. The legal forms available on WestLaw and Nexis cover virtually any and every comercial transaction known to man. The fact that we don't have to recreate the wheel allows us to draft many commercial contracts for less than $1500 dollars. And, there is a good range of contracts that we can now do for $500.

This possibility really didn't exist ten years ago where each attorney grabbed a form from their own database or simply started from scratch with a commercial contract. The attorney would pass the contract off to another attorney who had a completely different idea about contract drafting which would result in tremendous wasted re-drafting between the attorneys. As we grow closer to standards, we dramatically decrease the number of things which need to be negotiated. As importantly, we, as attorneys, tend to focus on the issues and contract terms which are really critical to our client as opposed to the form of the contract or other more irrelevant items.

It is my expectation that within the next five years we will see a large number of contracts that will have as few as ten variables to be negotiated between parties. Those contracts will have already been approved or accepted by most attorneys. The cost of those contracts will plummet, but the number of customers that will buy them will sky-rocket.


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