My daughter is a graduate student at the nation's second largest university. (No, not Ohio State. OSU is #3. The University of Central Florida in Orlando, with just under 60,000 students, is second only to Arizona State University in total enrollment). She is a frequent user of the Uber ride sharing service. Orlando is full of Uber drivers, so a ride is always just a few minutes away. Uber is expanding rapidly and has even started serving my little hometown area of Sarasota and Bradenton, FL. Using Uber is simple. Just download the app to your smart phone, enter your credit card information, and tap the screen a few times. Within minutes, your Uber ride will appear. No calling a cab or dealing with cash to pay the fare. It is a seamless "complete experience." Lawyers can learn from this model, says Dan Lear in his intriguing post on Above the Law.
While the analogy between Uber and legal services cannot be taken too far, the contrast between the frictionless Uber experience and the way most lawyers and clients interact is notable. Lawyers need to recognize that their competition is not one another. It is with automated services like LegalZoom. Lawyers need to find innovative ways to use technology to provide a "complete experience" to their clients. This can include alternative ways to communicate, alternative fee structures, and flexible ways to pay bills. Even something as simple (and necessary) as accepting credit card payments still eludes many solo and small firm lawyers. When my law partner and I started accepting credit cards in 1995, our gross revenues increased by $100,000 in the first year.
I am now well into my second decade with a "virtual" law practice where I never meet many of my client's face-to-face until the final court hearing, and some not at all. Yet, my clients tell me I am the most "accessible" lawyer they've had. The use of technology in my practice makes this possible. Law is a service profession. When we forget that, we run the risk of being replaced by entities like LegalZoom, the Uber of law.