client-centricThe American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, with the ABA Legal Access Job Corps Task Force and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) is convening a national conference in Denver, Colorado on August 14-15, 2015  titled: Client-Centric Legal Services: Getting From Here to There.  The conference will have special value to practitioners who provide personal and small business legal services, bar leaders, judges and court administrators, legal educators, Access to Justice Commission members and staff, and incubator directors and law school clinicians. The focus of the conference is to explore new law firm business models that can enhancement engagement, re-define lawyer value, and pivot practitioners into 21st Century problem-solvers.

So what are client-centric legal services? 

The concept of client-centric legal services is part of a consumer revolution that puts the purchaser at the center of a commercial transaction shifting power from supplier to consumer. Power in the legal profession has always been on the supply side, but the legal profession is not immune from the consumer revolution and the demand by consumers for more transparency, information,  and control over the lawyer-client relationship. Consumers want fixed fee pricing so they can control their legal expenses and when possible be a co-producer of legal services to keep legal fees reasonable and manageable. This translates into “unbundled legal services” or “limited legal services”, powered by online delivery systems.

Internet based applications that either enhance the client’s understanding of their legal rights, or enable them to represent themselves with the assistance of an attorney, are examples of client-centric legal services.

A short list would include:

A law firm web site that consists of information only about a lawyer’s practice and biographies of the law firm’s lawyers is not client centric because it is solely focused on the supplier and provides no tools that empower the client as consumer.

Here are good examples of client-centric law firm web sites: The Rosen Law Firm in North Carolina – a family law firm; and The Baker Law Firm – an estate planning firm also in North Carolina.

Large law firms and their corporate clients are not immune from these developments as Big Law seeks to provide tools that enable corporate legal departments to service their internal clients more effectively.

For example Seyfarth and the Littler, Mendelson law firm  are developing expert systems applications on the NeotaLogic platform that can be used by their clients to more efficiently access legal advice at low cost. See Human Resources Compliance Application.

Prof. Stephanie Kimbro, author of The Consumer Revolution: The Lawyer’s Guide to the On-Line Legal Marketplace   predicts that:

“The client-centric law firms that are transparent in their business practices and provide communication and delivery methods that clients expect from professionals in any industry will be the firms that survive in our quickly changing legal marketplace.”

To learn more about creating client-centric law firms, register for the Denver conference, here.

FTC Disclosures:
I am a speaker at the ABA Denver Conference and I am also a liaison member of the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, and the company I am CEO of- DirectLaw – provides a virtual law firm platform for solo and small law firms that enables these firms to deliver legal services online.

Reinvent Law silicon Valley 2013ReinventLawSiliconValley is happening next Friday, March 8 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The brain child of Professors Daniel Martin Katz and Renee Knake, co-founders and co-directors of the Reinvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State University Law School, the event promises to be quite a bash. The event is free, but attendance is limited to 400 participants and you have to register to get in. Over 40 innovators, founders, policymakers, venture capitalist and other change agents interested in reforming the legal services industry will be speaking in 6 – 10 minute presentations.

Think of this as a TED Talks event about innovation and change in the legal industry– a crash course about disruption in the legal profession.

Here is the full detailed schedule with the speakers and the titles of their presentations.

Some of the speakers I am especially looking forward to listening to are:

This is just a sampling of the range of talks at ReinventLawSiliconValley – 2013.

Private Investment in Law FirmsYours truly is giving a talk on Private Investment in US Legal Services: New Business Models.  I am interested in how to get private capital into law firms, given the restrictions of ABA Professional Rule 5.4 which prohibits non-lawyers from taking an equity interest in a law firm. Are there ways of getting around this rule? What kind of law firm structures can be created that enable private equity investment? Is it wise to enable private investment in law firms? Will it ever happen in the United States given the present position of the ABA and  state bar associations? What can small and medium size law firms do to access capital to make them more competitive? Are Clearspire and AxiomLaw ethically compliant models that can be replicated?

The ABA Journal Blawg 100We are pleased to announce that the Editors of the ABA Journal have selected the eLawyering Blog as one of the top 100 best blogs for a legal audience.

In addition, the magazine has introduced the inaugural Blawg 100 Hall of Fame,
featuring 10 of the very best law blogs, known for crafting high-quality, engaging posts
day in and day out.

The  ABA Journal is asking readers to weigh in and vote on their favorites in each of the 6th Annual Blawg 100’s 15 categories. Go to http://www.abajournal.com/blawg100 to register and vote. Voting ends at close of business on Dec. 21, 2012.

The ABA Journal, in announcing this year’s selection, said:

"Each year, our choices become tougher. Blogging has become such a staple of
professional communication that keeping up with our own directory of more than 3,500 blogs by lawyers, judges, law professors or even law students is more formidable than it’s ever been," said ABA Journal Editor and Publisher Allen Pusey. "Some of them have become such permanent, even required, fixtures in our everyday reading that we’re introducing the ABA Journal Blawg 100 Hall of Fame to recognize those blogs and bloggers that have set the standards for this vast, vibrant network for legal news and commentary."

The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, and it is read
by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It covers the trends, people and
finances of the legal profession from Wall Street to Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue.

ABAJournal.com features breaking legal news updated as it happens by staff reporters
throughout every business day, a directory of more than 3,500 lawyer blogs, and the full
contents of the magazine.

 

Legal Documents On-LineThe American Bar Association’s eLawyering Task Force has compiled a draft set of best practice guidelines for legal document providers, which can be downloaded here*.  

An increasingly popular – and controversial – category of service providers are those that supply customer-specific documents over the Internet, using interactive software and/or human resources, without purporting to be engaged in the practice of law. There are literally hundreds of these legal documents Web sites. More of these legal document Web sites launch every month, of not every week on the Internet.

 

These Web sites include for example:

The Task Force believes that there are common principles that ought to guide these legal document sites, and practices that consumers should be able to expect.  The  eLawyering Task Force  also recognizes that consumers have different levels of knowledge in meeting their documentation needs.  Some believe, for instance, that it is simply a matter of getting “the” right form, and pay little attention to careful drafting and appropriate execution.  Others have a more sophisticated understanding of options and implications. Nevertheless there should be baseline expectations that meets the needs of all kinds of users. The goal is not to issue a "seal off approval" of these legal document Web sites. The objective is to encourage these Web sites to use acknowledged "best practices" in the development and delivery of their services.

These guidelines do not take a position on whether certain document services may constitute the unauthorized practice of law in certain jurisdictions if not performed by a licensed attorney, other than to urge providers to know and observe applicable law on that thorny subject.

The primary purpose is to aid consumers in making informed decisions about what they are buying.

Comments on these Guidelines are invited. They can be submitted on the eLawyering Task Force ListServ which any lawyer can join, Click here.

 

Hyatt Regency Incline Village Lake Taho, CaliforniaThe eLawyering Task Force is having a Quarterly Meeting at he Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino on Friday, October 19, 2012 between 9:00 – 11:00 A,M,

This is an open meeting and individuals who want to submit comments on these Guidelines are invited to attend and participate.

Additional Conference details can be found here.

 

 

*(Disclosure: I am Co-Chair of the eLawyering Task Force. The Co-Chair of the Task Force is Marc Lauitsen, of Capstone Practice Systems, who is providing leadership to this project.)

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In accordance with the   FTC 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guidelines Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonial in Advertising" I am disclosing that I have a material connection to some of the companies referred to in this Post. I am the Founder/CEO of  DirectLaw, a virtual law firm platform provider and SmartLegalForms, a web-based legal document provider. The opinions expressed here are my own. I did not receive any compensation from any source for writing this post. DirectLaw sponsors this blog by paying for the costs of hosting.

 

 

The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal InstructionThe Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is offering a free online course on digital law practice, primarily for law students and law professors, but anyone can register.

 

I don’t doubt that most law faculty will find these topics to be irrelevant, but its connecting with law students, as over 500 law students have registered nationwide.

For lawyers interested in delivering legal services online, this course would be a good introduction to the subject.

The first session is February 10 at 2-3 EST. Stephanie Kimbro is doing a session on the virtual law office.

Later in the course, Marc Lauritsen is doing a session on document automation, and I am doing a session on “unbundling legal services”.

Here are some of the other sessions:

Week 5: Online Legal Forms in Legal Aid
Friday, Mar. 9, 2-3pm ET
Ronald W. Staudt, Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Week 6: Contract Standardization
Friday, Mar. 16, 2-3pm ET
Kingsley Martin, President, kiiac.com & contractstandards.com

Week 7: Free Legal Research Tools
Friday, Mar. 23, 2-3pm ET
Sarah Glassmeyer, Director of Content Development / Law Librarian, CALI

Week 8: Unauthorized Practice of Law in the 21st Century
Friday, Mar. 30, 2-3pm ET
William Hornsby, Staff Counsel at American Bar Association

Week 9: Social Media for Lawyers
Friday, Apr. 6, 2-3pm ET
Ernest Svenson, Attorney at Law

Here is the course description and the registration page:

http://www.cali.org/blog/2012/01/25/free-online-course-digital-law-practice

The James Keane Memorial Award for Excellence in eLawyering is awarded every year at the ABA TECHSHOW (March 29-31, 2012, Chicago, Illinois). James Keane was the founding Chair of the ABA/LPM eLawyering Task Force., which grants the Award.

Last year the Award was given to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County for their Legal Genie Project.  Another recipient was Stephanie Kimbro for her pioneering work in developing the virtual law firm concept at KimbroLaw.

The purpose of the award is to recognize law firms, private or public, that demonstrate innovative ways of using Internet technology to deliver legal services. Nominees may be any individual lawyer, law firm, or other deliver of legal services to individuals within the United States. The nominees can be a large or small law firm, public or private, or a legal services agency.  Self nomination by the Task Force is encouraged.

Here is a summary of the Award criteria:

  • Absence of precedent – Never been done or done quite this way before.
  • Evidence of action – The innovative idea was transformed into action and not merely reflective of best intentions. The nominee should be prepared to provide evaluation data that documents the effectiveness of the legal service in terms of client satisfaction, revenue enhancement, and/or law productivity. The nomination must provide an analysis of the measures used to define success.
  • Effectiveness of innovation – There is some measurable outcome that would indicate that the innovation is accomplishing what it was intended to do.
  • The project must demonstrate the use of the Internet to deliver legal services.
  • Action must have taken place no more than three years prior to this entry, and the legal service must be operating for at least one year prior to submission of the Application.
  • Additional consideration will be given to projects that focus on the delivery of legal services to individuals of moderate means.
  • The nomination should describe how the service was developed, how it is managed, and how it has been evaluated.
  • The nomination should describe how the service can be replicated by other law firms in terms of development costs, required technology, people requirements, and ongoing maintenance costs.

Click here to go to the ABA Application Page to apply.

The application deadline is February 15, 2012.

Virtual Law PracticeThe latest edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine has good articles on elawyering and virtual practice and a really innovative piece by Marc Laurtisen titled,  Dancing in the Cloud, and an introduction to the elawyering concept by Stephanie Kimbro —  Getting Started With eLawyering).

I also wrote a short article on Document Assembly Over the Internet , which as readers of this Blog will know is an old theme for me.

For our latest analysis on what is working in the virtual law firm space, download our White Paper on Virtual Law Practice: Success Factors.

 

 

A new international bar association was formed last year, based in Miami, Florida, called the Online Bar Association. It is an eclectic group of attorneys some based in the United States and many based internationally, who have come together around a common interest – the online delivery of legal services.

The first inaugural meeting is this weekend, April 29-May 1, 2011 at the Westin Colanade Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.  Here is information about the meeting and the agenda.

The James I. Keane Memorial Award for Excellence in eLawyering for 2011 is going to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County for their Legal Genie Project, reports the eLawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA, the group that makes the Award.

James Keane was the first appointed Chair of the group, and passed away tragically from cancer six years ago.

Legal Genie - Keane Award Winner - 2011

Bob Cohen is the long time leader of Orange County Legal Aid, and provided the leadership for this Project. 

This project combines the use of advanced web-enabled document automation technology to generate Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 documents, as well as California divorce pleadings. It is unique because it involves a network of lawyers who provide legal advice, document review,  and other assistance to clients who use the program. The use of Internet technology makes it possible for the lawyers to be involved, and to also get paid a fee, because the entire transaction is made more efficient. The lawyers who participating get the benefit of the Legal Aid brand, and the marketing that results from promoting the project.

The Project demonstrates how a vertical branded network of attorneys, empowered by a robust technology platform, can provide legal services at an affordable fee to individuals who could not normally afford a lawyer.

This is from the Legal Genie website:

 “Legal Genie is a simple, affordable and reliable online service created by Legal Aid Society of Orange County. It is designed for people who do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford the services of an attorney. It asks simple questions and puts answers on the forms in the correct place.

"Legal Genie is different from other services because it connects you to a licensed attorney on our Lawyers Referral Service panel. The LRS attorney will give you telephone consultations, review your documents and give you legal advice. Legal Genie combines the magic of technology with the help of a professional at a price you can afford.”

The formal granting of the Award will be on April 12, 2011, at a Lunch for all of the attendees of  ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, Illinois at the Hilton Hotel.

The eLawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA is seeking recommendations and applications for the James Keane Award for Excellence in eLawyering which is awarded annually at ABA Tech Show in Chicago ( April 11-13, 2011). This will be the fourth year that the Award has been made. Previous award winners include Stephanie Kimbro for her work in creating the virtual law firm of KimbroLaw and Lee Rosen of the The Rosen Law Firm (both coincidentally located in North Carolina).

The purpose of this Award is to give recognition to law offices that have developed legal service innovations that are delivered over the Internet. The focus of the Award is on the innovative delivery of personal legal services, with special attention given to firms and entities that serve both moderate income individuals and the broad middle class. 

The Award is technology-focused, in the sense that the Award Committee is seeking innovations that demonstrate the concept of eLawyering – which can be  further defined as the delivery of online legal services. Examples of elawyering include the development of online web advisors, expert systems, innovative uses of web-enabled document automation, on-line client collaboration systems, and on-line dispute settlement systems, to name a few examples.

Nominees may be any individual lawyer, law firm or other deliverer of legal services to individuals within the United States.

The nominee can be a large or small law firm, public or private, or a legal services agency. More than one entry may be submitted, and the Task Force encourages self-nomination. The Application deadline has been extended to March 15, 2011.

For further information and an application form see: http://tinyurl.com/48xvcfq