Legal Services: 3 Things You Need to Know
You may have heard that since the Great Recession the legal profession is undergoing a massive shake up, with big firms slashing head counts and costs, newly minted lawyers struggling to find jobs and cope with their debt, and new online legal services popping up to compete with traditional firms.
But you’re a business owner, not a lawyer, so what does this have to do with you? Quite a bit, according to Basha Rubin and Mirra Levitt, co-founders of one of those online alternatives called Priori Legal. The pair of founders point out that these profound changes to the legal landscape should mean big changes in entrepreneurs’ expectations for their lawyers -- and their lawyers’ bills. In an email they offered three major shifts small business owners should be aware of.
The billable hour is (slowly) giving way to more creative pricing models. Many lawyers are now open to a range of pricing options, including fixed fees and success fees. For a long time, only the low-end of the legal services market was being disrupted - mostly by online document services. Now, there are many entrepreneurial lawyers who are interested in finding fee and price packages that work for businesses, and many new services dedicated to filling that gap. Reach out to a lawyer - you’ll be surprised at the range of available pricing structures.
Demand price transparency. For all but the largest companies, historically the fragmented small law firm market has presented significant challenges for businesses and individuals who want to shop for legal services on price. Without comparative information, most consumers find it hard to know if they're getting a good or bad deal. But innovation is really helping to make legal price information more accessible. Now, many services offer ways for attorneys to bid to work on your legal issue. Other services offer up lists of available lawyers and their price (often times, those lawyers pay to participate). Priori delivers a list of vetted attorneys who might be appropriate for your matter and indicates the pre-negotiated rates and fee packages offered by each lawyer.
Expensive prices don’t always indicate quality. Just because it's expensive, doesn't mean it's better. Many small-firm attorneys left 'big law' --where they were being billed out at over $500 dollars an hour -- to start their own practices. These lawyers are entrepreneurial, and are interested in providing legal services in a cost-effective, high-touch way that strips away many of the inefficiencies of working at bigger institutions.
Have you changed how you go about finding (and paying) for lawyers?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.