Last year, I wrote about the state of the industry panel at the 2016 Group Legal Services Association (GLSA) annual education conference. It bears repeating that some of the GLSA legal plans are more than 40 years old, and even more importantly, these plans are being overlooked as the answer to the American access to justice problem. Technology is the key component to improving efficiency and ensuring affordability.
In Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 18, the 2017 state of industry panel again features prominent plan players:
- Jeff Bell (JB) is the CEO of LegalShield. A known disruptor and constructor, Jeff is all about protecting and empowering people. His past gigs include Ford, Chrysler, Microsoft, and Venture Capital.
- Brian Caron (BC) is the General Counsel & VP of Hyatt Legal Plans. He manages the member experience and ensures that quality service is provided with every Hyatt Legal Plans interaction.
- Jean Clauson (JC) is a passionate advocate of creating greater access to legal services through connecting attorneys to consumers, and leads ARAG’s Network Development.
- Allen Rodriguez (AR) is a national spokesperson on subjects related to the future of law, legal product development, and law marketing. Allen is also the CEO of ONE400, a global law innovation agency based in Los Angeles.
- Raph Vernassal (RV) is a passionate advocate for bringing technology into the traditional practice of law to create a 21st century attorney-client experience, and heads Rocket Lawyer’s attorney services.
- John Wachsmann (JW) is managing attorney at Wachsmann & Associates, PC, in Colorado, where he maintains a full caseload and manages a staff of six, including four attorneys. He also is a GLSA board member since 2014.
How has technology impacted your plan and/or practice over the past couple of years?
JB: We shatter barriers that limit citizens’ access to legal services and create accelerators for lawyers to serve those citizens effectively and efficiently. We have created, and continue to improve upon, an affordable, accountable, and responsive platform for lawyers and law firms to serve all citizens.
BC: Technology is continually changing our customer service experience, including how members want to access their legal plans and how they expect legal services to be delivered to them. For example, the availability of a mobile application is now expected by many consumers as opposed to something that is just nice to have. Legal plans need to continue to stay on top of the latest technologies to connect with consumers or risk being left behind.
JC: Technology has afforded us the ability to more effectively connect and match consumers with attorneys nationally. Leveraging technology to provide consumers with legal check-ups, a mobile app, and direct access to attorneys in their geographic area for their specific type of legal need, ARAG’s helped more than one million plan members (people like you) gain relief for their legal needs.
AR: Technology has allowed me to offer significantly more features and plan benefits without increasing the demand on participating attorneys. Software (Traklight, legal doc generator, DUI bot, etc.), accessible 24 hours a day on our member’s dashboards, allow them to get more done, at whatever time they want, from anywhere they have an Internet connection and without direct attorney assistance. Of course, core benefits, such as advice and doc review, are still available when scheduled. However, even that experience will be improved by technology—for instance, adding in Facetime-like chats, uploading of docs via taking pictures with your phone, and more.
RV: Technology in the legal space has allowed for new types of scalable and accessible practice that I clearly benefited from right out of law school. My first job as a lawyer was at the Arroyo Law Group, a California-based provider firm virtually servicing tens of thousands of legal plan members across the state. By the end of my four-year tenure at Arroyo, I had the opportunity to consult with, and provide transaction services to, more than 1,000 small- to medium-sized businesses.
JW: Our firm has tried to monitor and maintain technological proficiency. We purchased the highest-level case management software (Amicus Premier) to assist with law firm management, billing, client portal options, email integration, paperless options, and document assembly. We are not computer programmers or coders, and have therefore relied on those who are when selecting this new system. It has been a significant investment of both time and money; however, we believe this will help our firm remain competitive and help us best serve clients and legal plans. We are also in the process of updating our phone system to improve client access. Overall, we are adopting new technology to improve the client experience.
Where do you see technology for the law and/or legal plans in five years?
JB: We will see more AI to aid in research to support law firms and to prepare citizens to be confident in working with lawyers. We will also see significant improvements in connectivity and communications between citizens and their law firms.
BC: The more ways in which technology connects consumers with companies will continue to have an impact on our business. Consumers expect to interact with their legal plan just as they would any other service. We seem to have reached the point where the percentage of our members calling us for information is holding steady rather than using the online services that are available. The next five years will see our members connecting with us through constantly evolving mediums.
JC: It’s thrilling to have the “hack” and “hackathon” concept now being leveraged within the legal industry. Over the next five years, firms/attorneys who continue to collaborate with specialized skill sets in technology, marketing, and business will have a competitive advantage while advancing the delivery of legal services.
AR: There will be more software products built on AI. Lawyers and legal plan customers will be able to research legal issues using natural language tools such as Ross. Legal plan customers will be using bots to create their own documents on the go through mobile devices. Software will alert legal plan customers and providers of copyright and trademark infringements and generate takedown notices automatically.
RV: Consumer awareness is the biggest change in legal tech we will see in the future. There are many cost effective, high quality, and accessible solutions for everyday people. The biggest barrier we currently face is the lack of awareness of these options. As an industry, we will continue to champion technology-driven legal services and significantly see that barrier broken down in the next five years.
What is your biggest obstacle to serving more clients?
JB: Awareness that everything we’ve been taught about the law is wrong, and that LegalShield is a product whose time has come.
AR: Advertising dollars and state by state regulation.