Once upon a time your lawyer was a person. Potential clients would walk into an attorney’s ornate office to hire him based on a referral from either his accountant, mother or hairdresser. Then your attorney became software. Think Nolo books and Blumberg forms. With the advent of LegalZoom, your attorney became software on the web and the costs to the consumer were reduced dramatically. LegalZoom has been able cut into the business of lawyers by offering cheap forms. Why pay a lawyer $500 to draft a simple will when they can do it themselves?
According to Chris Anderson, author of Free, the marginal costs of distributing content is now zero. This is a game changer. Lawyers can now give away free content on their blogs and charge for legal services. Bandwith costs nothing. This has radical implications on how legal information is disseminated. With a simple free content management system such as WordPress, lawyers can post legal forms for free on their blog and create free podcasts and videos.
The goal now is for lawyers to use free to reach the broadest range of people as possible. Once a consumer has a complicated legal matter, they are n0t going to want to settle for the free legal form online. They are going to want to go to a person and that person is going to advise them. That person can charge more for offering up more specialized work. You can charge more than the commodity because it is unique and customized and it takes advantage of the lawyer’s brain. Things that are simple can be turned into software and would become free. They become marketing for something else.
The goal for lawyers is to get potential clients to use their product online, experience their product and put their data into the product. When it comes time to make a more complicated transaction, are they going somewhere else to finish the work, or are they going to go to place where the data is already entered and pay into it?
What are your thoughts? Is free really a game changer for lawyers? Do potential clients really care about free information when hiring an attorney? Will free ever take the place of referrals?