Numerous articles have been written about the benefits of packaging your services and offering them as products. The concept has of been proven largely by non-attorney owned corporations that have come to rise in the age eCommerce, the Rocketlawyers and Legalzooms of the world. These organizations have “productized” legal services historically only provided by law firms at hourly rates. The success of these organizations clearly demonstrates that there is significant demand for evaluating and procuring legal services much in the same way any tangible product may be evaluated and purchased online. In addition to the convenience of shopping online, consumers of legal services are also looking for predictable pricing. For lawyers to capture the demand for consumers of online legal services they need to understand how the productization of legal services works. The following explains an approach to developing legal services products at your firm.
Before we get to the approach, it’s important to understand some of the attributes that we use to define a legal services product. Let’s start with non-legal tangibles first for comparison. Most tangible products offer clear value propositions for consumers. For instance, a tangible product typically has one clearly defined price, a set of benefits and features (e.g., ergonomic handle, light weight, etc.), a predictable way of acquiring the product and a clear description of what the product will help you accomplish. These common attributes of tangible products allow the consumer to comparison shop more easily. The ability to compare quickly leads to a shorter, more immediate sales cycle and increased confidence in the purchase.
With regards to the purchase of legal services, the value proposition is less clear for consumers of legal services. This is mostly to do with the consumer’s inability to properly assess the quality of a proposed strategy as well as the value of the service provider brings to the situation. After all, the features and benefits (primary evaluation tools of purchasers) are hard to understand when it comes to the law. Further, a lawyer will typically explain a legal strategy to a potential client along with an initial retainer and no certainty of a given outcome. If the consumer wishes to compare, they are likely going to meet with some other lawyer who will give them a different strategy and a different retainer amount which leads to confusion and an increased sales cycle. The consumer will respond a couple of ways. They may either choose to ignore their legal issue or evaluate the lawyer based on factors that the lawyer may not have considered (or sold) like how the lawyer made them feel. The non-attorney service providers are well aware of this and have incorporated the principles of tangible product marketing into their own attorney and non-attorney offerings.
Lawyers can decrease their sales cycle and increase their client retention rates by thinking of the services that they offer as products. This will help consumers evaluate more quickly, offer increased purchase confidence, decrease your sales cycle and increase client satisfaction. So how do you approach this?
First, it certainly helps if your practice has a transactional component to it as litigation is still one of those areas that are very difficult to predict time and outcome. The key components of thinking of your services as products are:
A law firm should offer flat fee pricing whenever it makes sense. Especially for contract drafting work, estate planning (not probate) and business services. Consumers of legal services have been demanding predictability in pricing for decades. This offers them an easy point of comparison and allows them to plan their budget. Offering this at your law firm gives you a competitive advantage over firms that do not offer this.
You’ve heard it before, people don’t buy drills, they buy holes. So how does this translate to law? When a lawyer is selling the firm, they typically talk about their experience, education, professional associations and to the degree that they can, or that it’s helpful, track record (this is a drill). The problem with this is that the consumer doesn’t know how to evaluate most of this. For instance they don’t know the difference between a tier 1 and a tier 2 law school and they don’t necessarily understand that someone with 10 years of experience coming out of a tier 2 school likely has a better skill set then someone from a tier 1 school with only 2 years. Instead, the description of your services should focus on the solution. You should use language on your site and in your pitch that speaks to how you will provide a solution. The prospective client will also want to learn more about how your solution has benefited others so spend a little time discussing how your legal solutions are used by others.
When providing services as products, you’ll also want to provide predictability around fulfilment as well. Keeping up with a few orders of a given transactional service every month is fairly easy to accomplish. However, keeping up with dozens or even hundreds obviously requires a systematized process. Whatever, the appropriate time period for completing a given transaction, give yourself a small additional window of time for unknowns. Also, consider using document automation and project management tools to make sure that your stay on track with your process and delivery schedules. Client’s love it when they can track completion dates.
Before making this a comprehensive initiative for your entire firm, start small and lean. Choose a service that you have much experience with and define the scope of work that goes into fulfilling the service. For instance, if you wanted to sell non disclosure agreements as products, what would be included? Try and be as detailed as possible when starting out. Include a description of the final product and what it aims to accomplish. Also include any hours of time that may go into the fulfillment process. The hours are not there to bill against but more to place a cap (e.g., 1 hour of consultation time after you receive the completed NDA) on how much a client can ask for within the scope of the service you offering. Finally, track the steps carefully to identify future efficiencies for your fulfillment process.
While there is probably much more that I can cover on the topic, the point here is to take a chance and try meeting this type of legal services demand by productizing a transactional legal service you currently offer. Don’t worry about having a solid purchase or fulfillment process when you launch, that is something you will refine over time. However, do focus on delivering the highest quality product every time. This will not only earn you more business, it will also reduce your exposure to liability.
If you have any questions about this article or your law firms product development, please contact ONE400 – we are here to help.