Using technology to expand your client base, increase efficiency and reach underserved communities

New technologies give lawyers the opportunity to expand their client base, break down geographical barriers and compete with big law firms. Even for bootstrapping solo firms, technology provides affordable opportunities to reduce overhead costs and increase output.

Still, many lawyers are hesitant to integrate these innovations into their practices.

“Lawyers have a tendency to put their heads down and focus on the law and not think about business development and technology development impacts the way they practice,” said Martin Pritikin, dean of Concord Law School of Kaplan University, the first online law school. “The technology used to drive down legal costs already exists, it’s just a matter of using it.” 

There is a large, untapped market in need of legal representation, Pritikin explained, but these potential clients are priced out of the legal market. Instead of hiring a local lawyer, they turn to cheaper options online, like LegalZoom. It is not that these potential clients do not want to pay for legal services; it is just that they find traditional law offices to be too expensive and inefficient.

 


 The technology used to drive down legal costs already exists, it’s just a matter of using it.


 

Big law firms that represent large, corporate clients and wealthy individuals do not have an incentive to accommodate the needs of modest means clients, he said. Their tech investments, which may include predictive coding and pricing analytics, are aimed at trimming costs for their corporate clients.

Small law firms, by contrast, have the greatest potential to expend their client base and reach the underserved legal market. Instead of competing for clients at the top of the legal market, law firms can expand their reach and serve traditionally underrepresented communities while increasing profits. And they can do this by integrating innovative technologies into their practice.

“Why should smaller firms fight for a piece of the pie when they could be expanding the pie?” Pritikin asked.

Another issue that smaller law firms are encountering in the digital age is the demand for greater transparency, Pritikin said. With the use of a smartphone, people can check the balance of their bank accounts, look up the status of their flights and see where their Uber drivers are in real time. Clients have come to expect the same kind of transparency from their lawyers.

Fortunately, lawyers do not need to program a new app to deliver legal services, reach more clients and achieve greater transparency, Pritikin said. There are many simple, and affordable, solutions already on the market.

 


Lawyers are using technology in a way that is beneficial for them and their clients.


 

For example, video conferencing like Skype can be used to remove geographic barriers, cut down on transportation costs and save hours of billable time. This technology was once out of reach to many law firms, but has since become an affordable communication solution for both lawyers and their clients.

Video conferencing also facilitates the delivery of limited scope representation. Clients of modest means may be willing to shoulder some of the responsibilities of their legal representation, such as filing documents or representing themselves in court proceedings, but need help completing the forms and learning procedural rules. In these situations, lawyers can unbundle their legal services to provide inexpensive representation to their clients. 

As for increased transparency, law firms can share client files in real time through secured cloud computing, send automated emails alerting clients of actions taken on their behalf and meet with clients via Skype without leaving the office.

“Lawyers are beginning to think about technology and how it intersects with their practice,” he said. “They are using it in a way that is beneficial for them and their clients.”

Virtual office or not, law firms are discovering innovative ways to leverage existing technology to deliver their services. In turn, underserved communities will have access to legal representation that they have been priced out of. And this isn’t “bleeding-heart talk,” Pritikin said. “It’s good business.”