There’s no shortage of challenges facing law firms in 2019, and they all weave back to a common starting point: the nature of the way legal services are delivered continues to evolve and law firms must navigate through a structure that has not kept pace.
Like any industry, it’s important for anyone in the legal profession to stay current.
Access to the justice system itself remains a problem for many people of median to low income. Humanitarian grounds alone make this a serious concern, and it’s bad for the business of law.
The consequence is a flattening of demand, leaving more law firms battling for a client pool that is either static or decreasing—which leaves pressure on lawyers to reduce hourly rates.
Two solutions for law firms facing structural changes
There are solutions that would open up access to legal services and be good for the bottom line of lawyers.
One of them is called “The Walmart Solution.”
It would allow an attorney to be in a store like Walmart and offer legal counsel on commonly asked questions—wills and estates being a prime example—at an affordable cost.
The problem is that United States law doesn’t allow for non-lawyers to share in profits earned through dispensation of legal services. The restriction eliminates any incentive for a place like Walmart—or any other popular local venue—to allow a lawyer to use their facilities.
Another possibility is allowing for a Limited Law License. This concept would allow a legal professional that is not a certified lawyer (for example, a paralegal) to be licensed to provide legal counsel on basic topics.
The Limited Law License has been compared to what the medical profession has with its doctor/nurse distinction. You aren’t required to see a doctor—and pay their rates—if all you need is a blood test.
Either change—the Walmart Solution or the Limited Law License would require legislative fixes. In the meantime, firms will have to meet the challenges of the market by improved technology.
Firms need to become more efficient, continue to automate more tasks and improve their pricing analytics — all the while fighting for their share of a static economic pie.
Even so, good changes are happening in the legal profession, like an increase of women in the field.