Meeting Client Needs in a Constantly Evolving Legal Landscape

While the practice of law is a constant, the process of delivering legal services is going through some significant changes. Lawyers are using language that includes terms like “innovation,” “end-to-end” (E2E) and “alternative fee arrangements” (AFA) at their law firms, conferences and coffee shops.

Many lawyers are pushing the envelope to find more efficient ways in which to serve their clients as well as improve office efficiency. The Internet has become the vehicle of choice to help them work faster and create a more dynamic practice.

Innovation in the workplace

While “innovation” has become the standard buzzword in industry, it holds specific meaning for the practice of law. Like other professions that have a strict code of conduct, innovation can have a much narrower scope and challenge to stay between the lines.

For law practices that want to embrace the new opportunities, firms should take a hard look at how these techniques effect their client and professional relationships. The question many attorneys ask is how do the rules of ethics stifle innovation and violate the Rules of Professional Conduct? According to Daniel J. Siegel, the principal of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel LLC, decidedly no, they do not.

Siegel wrote in Law Practice, that be believes most attorneys comply with the Rules. Yet, he says, while others may ignore some Rules, they respect their profession and the welfare of their clients.

Regarding the ethical implications of law and innovation, conventional wisdom has been that not to embrace change endangers a firm to be out of touch and out of the running. Clients today use the Internet to make decisions about which organizations they want to do business with and that decision often is made going online and judging the website information and interface effectiveness. It is not uncommon today for lawyers to communicate with prospective clients by using blogs, the Internet, on-demand videos and social media. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, in 1999 in the Fordham Law Review (Vol. 67, No. 5), author Richard Zorza concluded that, “Rather than threatening the practice of law, technological innovation can dramatically advance the values that the ethical rules seek to protect.”

Examples of innovative ideas include:

  • Accordion Companies -assemble networks of lawyers available to meet short-term staffing needs.
  • Attorneys are paid only for the hours they work.
  • Virtual law firms- The internet has made it easier for potential clients to find legal services online through full-service firms or as part of traditional firm. Clients can research information or make requests online through a website. For some services, all work can be exchanged and solved online.

End-to-End services

Law firms that offer E2E services combine state-of-the-art technology with client services. The practice begins with collecting the client information, research, delivery of services and payment. Firms use software programs to facilitate the process, yet the actual tangible services are delivered by the staff themselves.

Day to day practice has evolved by using the changes innovation has brought to the law firm. End-to-end services offer clients a total “in-house” experience using the latest technologies to help in advancing the client services more quickly as well as less costly.

Alternative fee arrangements

For some services, the hourly fee has given way to the AFA. AFAs were not created to charge more to the client. Rather it is a more efficient way to offer specific and on-target charges for different services. It is designed to be fair and appropriate for services rendered. AFA is particularly good for virtual legal services. A fee for service approach in some cases is easier for the client to understand.

Common AFA’s include:

  • Contingent or success fee.
  • Fixed or Flat Fee.
  • Task or Unit-Based Billing.
  • Percentage Fee.
  • Retrospective Fee Based on Value.
  • Statutory or Other Scheduled Fee Systems.
  • Blended Hourly Rate.
  • Fee Collars.
  • Fixed Fee Plus Hourly.
  • Fixed Fee Plus Success Fee.
  • Hourly Rate Plus Contingency.

The challenge for law firms today is managing the various services and delivering quality legal product in the most efficient and effective model for clients. Innovative legal services should not have to undermine existing legal practice. While the delivery of legal services may change, regulations will continue to monitor the ethics of the practice of law.

Anthony Larman is a passionate executive with 20+ years of experience in helping Fortune 500 businesses achieve their marketing and business development goals. With a firm understanding on what it takes to make small to medium size company more profitable by leveraging the core principles of marketing that make a difference. If you want to achieve predictable business growth, eliminate waste and increase your marketing ROI (return on investment). Then Leads-Locally is for you.

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