The Survey Says: More People Want ONLINE Legal Services
Technology and the Internet are constantly reshaping the way we look at the landscape of business. More and more people have turned to the web to do their banking, shopping, schooling, and entertainment. A recent survey conducted by Epoq U.K. says more people want their legal services on the web as well. Attorney Richard Granat discusses the findings of the survey with Damien Allen on today's program.Announcer: Welcome to GAL radio, brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer blog, changing the way law is practiced through technology, innovation, and creativity. Turning the business of law on its head and shaking things up for the betterment of clients, lawyers, law firms and society. Now here’s your host, Damien Allen.
Damien Allen: Good morning and welcome to GAL Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and joining me today on the phone once again is Attorney Richard S. Granat of Directlaw.com and Mylawyer.com. He’s also the Chair of the Elawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association Today we’re discussing the Epoq Legal UK survey on online services. Good Morning, Richard, and welcome to the program.
Richard S. Granat: Good morning, Damien. How are you this morning?
Damien Allen: I’m doing fine. Hope you’re doing well, sir.
Richard S. Granat: I am.
Damien Allen: Epoq Legal UK recently conducted an online survey finding that the majority of those polled expected good law firms to offer their services online in the next couple of years. Is this desire or need for online legal services on the rise, Richard?
Richard S. Granat: There’s no question in my mind that it’s increasing, whether it’s the UK or the U.S. In fact, if the survey would have been conducted in the US, where, I think, we actually have higher internet penetration, I think the numbers would actually be higher. I also have another data point. We just recently got a survey from our Google representative showing data in the legal category which shows that over a two period the number of people searching legal sites has increased by 192%, almost 200%. So, we see an increasing trend by the consumer looking for answers on the internet or legal services on the internet.
Damien Allen: Now, are there advantages for a firm to move their legal services to an online platform? Is this something that more law firms should look into doing?
Richard S. Granat: Well, even if you have a brick and mortar law firm, the advantage of having what I call a virtual law firm, which is a client-portal that enables clients to relate to the lawyer online and to, perhaps, purchase documents online and do other things with the lawyer online, is that it increases the convenience from the client’s point of view. And the law firm is really that available on a 24/7 basis. And the whole environment and the relationship between the lawyer and client become actually more transparent because of the access to the law firm by the client using the internet as a platform for the delivery of legal services. So, I think there are a lot of benefits. There are also cost saving benefits from the law firm’s point of view in terms of just having a brick and mortar installation and now the flexibilities that having a virtual law firm platform affords to those law firms.
Damien Allen: And is that what clients are looking for by using the online services? They’re looking for cost-reduction fees?
Richard S. Granat: The clients actually perceive that if they buy something online, they’re going to get lower fees and that they’re going to get better responsiveness in terms of speed of reaction. We asked another question in this survey, and the result was that consumers see online services as a chance to reduce their legal fees because law firms can be more productive when they deliver legal services online. Something like over 2/5th of the people surveyed agreed that they would change law firms if an alternative firm offered a reduced fee in return for the consumer providing initial details about their matters online. So, there’s definitely a perception, and I think this is true across the board in any industry, that consumers think they’ll get more of a bargain by relating to their lawyers online.
Damien Allen: Now besides getting the initial contact and the initial points of the case online, what other services would be easier used online to start legal proceedings?
Richard S. Granat: Well, the most obvious one is what we call web-enabled document automation, where, for example, if a client wants to get a will, they would simply answer a set of questions within the web browser. And this is the way that technology works, as soon as they push that submit button, that document is actually automatically assembled and ready for the lawyer’s further review, amendment, and further advice questions. So, essentially, the lawyer’s getting the first draft of a document instantaneously, rather than having to cut and paste a document together which really increases the law firm’s productivity, enables the law firm to offer transactional documents such as wills, power of attorneys, living wills, and contracts at really a lower price point. They can’t really do that if you have a typical in-office relationship, which is a face-to-face relationship, because that’s obviously much more time consuming and potentially inconvenient and leads to higher pricing. So, one key service is what we call web-enabled document automation. A second one would be simply the ability to consume or to buy legal advice by the question, what we call an unbundled legal service online. The third one is the potential to have a collaborative discussion with your lawyer online. All those functions are arguably more convenient when they are done online and can be done at the client’s convenience, rather than when the lawyer wants to do it, when the lawyers available.
Damien Allen: As technology and the Internet has grown so quickly, were there large variances in the expectations or the desires for service of those polled across gender or age group?
Richard S. Granat: There was a slight preference among males versus females for an online offering. And when you get up above 55 years old, there was less interest in an online service. So, the drivers to this really are from a younger generation. Certainly, as we have a generation that’s raised on the Facebook and MySpace and iPhone and iPad, which basically they have in their DNA, that whole demographic will expect to deal with their lawyers online just the way which they book their travel online, relate to their friends online, network online, do their banking online, etc. It just becomes something which is expected by a younger demographic. So, the older demographic is less interested in this concept than the younger demographic, which as they age will clearly have legal problems just like any other group in the population.
Damien Allen: Well, thank you very much for joining us today, Richard.
Richard S. Granat: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Damien Allen: We’ve been speaking with Richard Granat. You’ve been listening to GAL Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great afternoon.
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