With the rise of online document prep services like RocketLawyer, which got an $18.5 million cash infusion from Google ventures, and the new artificially intelligent (AI) lawyer, Ross, who is already being hired by law firms across the country, you might be nervous about the future of your law practice.
And, if you are still practicing law in the traditional, old law practice model way, frankly, you should be nervous.
You might already be hearing from existing clients less frequently as they go online and search Nolo.com, LegalZoom or RocketLawyer for answers to questions, instead of calling you.
Perhaps your Trademark clients are already starting to use Trademarkia.
It’s only a matter of time before your current services are nearly completely replaced by artificial intelligent lawyers, like AI lawyer Ross.
Maybe you are already getting calls from prospects who call you for free legal advice, but then don’t hire you, instead choosing to do whatever they called you about themselves online.
If any of these are true, this article is for you.
Read it, take action on what you learn, and you can capitalize on the rise of do-it-yourself online legal research, document preparation and even AI services to create a life and law practice you absolutely love.
Way Business Lawyers Can Capitalize on the Rise of Do It Yourself Legal Services to Create a Life and Law Practice You Love
#1 Differentiate Yourself By Creating More Profit For Your Clients Rather Than Being a Necessary, But Undesirable, Expense
First and foremost, you must differentiate yourself from the online legal services world, and the rest of the lawyers in your community. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to do because most lawyers really suck at this.
But, once you learn how, you can establish yourself as a trusted advisor and legal counselor to your clients, not merely a document preparer, which is probably how they think about you now.
So, what does it mean to be a trusted advisor and legal counselor?
The first step is that you make the change within yourself to stop thinking of yourself as getting paid to draft documents or paper transactions, and stop giving away the most valuable part of what you do — the counseling — for free.
Instead, you need to get extremely clear that you get paid to close deals, keep your clients apprised of changes in the law, help your clients capitalize on unseen opportunities, support them to make more money, and to stay out of trouble.
By the way, in case you don’t already know this, almost every creative, entrepreneurial type business owner is afraid of getting into trouble. And, if you can give them the confidence of knowing that they can turn to you to stay out of trouble, you’ve won half the battle.
When clients hire me to help them negotiate an agreement, buy out a partner, or resolve a business conflict, they are not paying me to prepare an agreement.
Yes, there will likely be an agreement prepared, but usually that’s done by the lawyer on the other side, who is probably getting paid $200/hour or less to draft documents.
Or, I hire a lawyer who thinks of themselves as a document drafter, and the client pays that fee directly on top of my services.
In some cases, I’ll use RocketLawyer myself to prep a document when that’s necessary. But that’s not what I’m getting paid to do.
I’m getting paid (well) to strategically advise my clients, guide them, support them, and to help them make faster, better, more profitable decisions.
They are hiring me to find the win/win, when they can’t because they are too close to the deal.
They are hiring me to understand the tax consequences and financial ramifications of their deal.
And, they are hiring me so they can stay in their creative/entrepreneurial zone while I pay attention to changes in the law they need to know about.
If you present yourself as the kind of lawyer I am talking about here, and have the actual skills to back it up, you’ll never have to worry about an AI lawyer (or an online document drafting or filing service) taking your clients again.
In order to get hired to be this kind of lawyer, and paid well for it, means you need to become a true counselor to your clients.
Remember that part of lawyering? Attorney and COUNSELOR at law.
And, you probably aren’t right now, simply because you’ve never been trained on the “counselor” part of your role, and if you have been, you are likely giving it away for free. (More on that in #3 below.)
Chances are that you are speaking with your clients about solutions before you really understand the problem.
Chances are that when a client or prospect comes to you with a potential issue, you are focusing on guiding them to see that you have the answer without taking the time to really ask the questions that will have them feel “gotten” by you in a way they never have before by any other professional advisor.
Chances are that you see the solution and are jumping right to it too quickly.
It’s not your fault, it’s how we were trained. And it’s contributing to the reason that your prospects and clients may think, after talking to you, that they can just do it themselves or hire you for a one-off transaction, and then never contact you again.
To be a counselor, start by asking better questions, instead of jumping right to the answers.
Almost every business owner loves to talk about themselves and their business, so learn to start conversations by asking more questions and being curious. Learn to ask the questions that no one has ever asked your prospects or clients before.
As a counselor, you need to stay in communication with your prospects and clients, in a way that has them know they can rely on you for the most up to date guidance on what’s happening in their industry. Most lawyers are afraid to communicate with their clients proactively, feeling as if they are “bugging” them — but when you are a counselor, they look forward to hearing from you.
To differentiate yourself as a counselor, you get to slow down and truly understand your clients’ businesses, their business model, their revenue streams, their exit strategy, their hopes, dreams and desires, and become a trusted member of their “go-to” team.
When you do so, they begin to see you as someone who can help them earn more money and be a better, smarter business owner, not as a necessary, but undesirable expense of their business.
#2 Use Their Services to Make Your Business Easier
Once you’ve differentiated yourself from the online legal services world, as a trusted counselor and advisor, consider the possibility that you can actually use the online legal services systems to make your job easier.
In fact, you may even want to make this part of your differentiation strategy.
For example, RocketLawyer offers a $39.95 per month service where anyone, lawyer or layman, can fill-in-the-blanks and get great legal agreements created.
Consider using this service to create your own legal agreements, saving you time and money on drafting from scratch.
Or even consider that you might want to include in your monthly, recurring revenue for you, legal counsel subscription service a service of unlimited legal agreements that you will counsel your clients to prepare for themselves or for a higher fee, prepare in full for them, on demand.
In my other company, Eyes Wide Open, we sell training programs that educate our community of online business owners, on the foundations of what they need to do to create a business model that works for their live and what they need to know when it comes to the legal, insurance, financial and tax systems of their business.
The business model training is called the Money Map. And it’s a fully virtual training on how to design your business around your life, instead of the other way around, as happens for most business owners. It helps business owners find the business model sweet spot between the work they do in the world and the life they want to have.
The legal, insurance, financial and tax training is called the LIFT Foundation System and it includes everything a business owner needs to put in place their own legal systems, and yet in almost every case, business owners who invest in that system want a lawyer who will counsel them through it.
They don’t really want to do it themselves, alone, and uncertain. The lawyers in our Creative Business Lawyer program are licensed to use these systems to educate their own marketplace, and create demand for their services. And, it works.
Business owners who turn to online legal services do so because they think they know what they need, when often they don’t and are setting themselves up for trouble.
If you can educate the business owners in your community about what they actually can do themselves and see you as the strategic adviser who will help them save money where possible, stay out of trouble, and keep them focused on making money, , the business owners who actually want and need great counsel will end up hiring you.
Consider how you can leverage the online systems to create demand for your counsel.
#3 Stop Providing Free Legal Advice
Chances are, you are providing a tremendous amount of free legal counsel, getting paid for what clients can do themselves, and giving away your most valuable service.
It’s time to stop doing that.
When a prospect contacts me to discuss hiring me, the very first thing I do is turn the tables so that they have to prove to me that they are going to be a good fit for my services. I don’t do free initial consultations for business owners. Instead, I differentiate myself with an intake process that changes everything.
How do you handle it when a business prospect calls your office right now?
Most likely you scheduled a phone call or in-person meeting, ask a lot of questions about the business, and then quote a fee to hire you to either incorporate the business, or resolve the presenting legal matter.
And, if that’s the case, it’s likely the reason you feel you are competing with the online legal document services, losing control of your time, and not making enough income or impact in your law practice.
All those questions you asked to get to know them and their business, the holes you spotted and maybe told them about (or maybe didn’t because you didn’t want them to get distracted and not hire you for the thing they were calling up), are the counseling you can and should be getting paid for.
Or, maybe you didn’t even ask a lot of questions, you just jumped right into quoting them a fee for the service they were asking about, and they either hired you because it was cheap enough or they didn’t because they wanted to go shop around to see if they could get a better deal, or maybe even do it themselves.
If you’d like to change that, once and for all, and get paid to be the trusted advisor and legal counselor your clients can count on for the very best guidance, and stop competing with the online legal services…we can teach you how.
Get started with our FREE manifesto:
And, watch for my next article, in which I’ll walk you step by step through exactly what I say when a potential client contacts me for legal counsel, and how as a result, I am able to be paid up to $5,000 per month for the business counsel you may be giving away for free.