The commoditization of legal work is quickly becoming the norm. Unlike earlier generations, today’s lawyers rarely, if ever, begin our work from a blank piece of paper on a subject we know little about. Instead, most of the time, we rely upon our accumulated knowledge in an area of familiarity, look for forms in our electronic files, or pick the brain of a trusted colleague. And while it is certainly true that there will always be “price is no object” litigation, it’s equally true that such work is the exception rather than the rule. For the evolution of the law is the same as the human experience; we stand on the shoulders of others and our collective prior accomplishments.
For this reason, what was once a cutting-edge employment agreement or legal theory just a few years ago is now a commodity to be refined, polished, individualized, and sold at a lower price point. Commodity work is often thought of to include wills, leases, and uncontested divorces; however, it should be thought of as any legal work that involves routine and predictable issues.
Commoditization of routine and predictable legal issues is not a bad thing. Just as the bulk of the work faced by doctors does not involve brain surgery and the bulk of work done by architects is not devoted to designing skyscrapers, so too is our profession often routine and predictable.
But we in the law are fearful of acknowledging that our work is generally a commodity because it will require us to innovate and evolve our business models. The billable hour is the language of custom work. We as lawyers are comfortable with it, and the idea of changing our business model makes us uncomfortable for fear that we will become less profitable.
However, the commoditization of legal work can make us more profitable. Commoditization opens opportunities for entrepreneurial attorneys to move ahead of the competition through the use of technology and business models that were adopted decades ago in other professions. Knowledge management, automated document assembly, AI, and the use of freelance lawyers are all proven strategies that will bring down your costs and increase your profits. This is the value proposition technology can bring to you and your clients—greater value for the client at a lower cost while increasing your profit.
We built LAWCLERK to facilitate just this goal. Our marketplace allows general practitioners and small firms to tap into the oversupply of talented and experienced freelance lawyers with every type of subject matter experience when they are needed. This kind of flexible staffing allows attorneys to deliver a better product while simultaneously lowering their overhead. Technologies like LAWCLERK are in their infancy, but they hold the keys to moving away from the billable hour while increasing profits and while making legal services more accessible to the middle class.
LAWCLERK is where attorneys go to hire freelance lawyers. The marketplace allows busy attorneys to tap into a nationwide network of freelance lawyers, called Lawclerks, to add subject matter expertise without increasing overhead. The freelance Lawclerks come from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from recent law school graduates to seasoned attorneys ready to handle the most sophisticated of legal issues. Lawclerks bring a vast array of knowledge from every legal practice area allowing the hiring attorney to get the right legal talent, when and how they need it.