Three evolutions have put the idea of productizing legal services firmly in the spotlight. First, there is the increased demand for Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs): clients don’t like billable hours because they prefer to know in advance how much something will cost. So, lawyers started using fixed fees for certain services (e.g., a non-disclosure agreement will cost you amount X), or started offering subscription billing, e.g., as an option. With subscription billing a client pays a monthly fee, which entitles him or her to x amount of work, or, e g., to so many contracts, etc.
Another area where productizing legal services pops up is in software that analyses and automates workflows in law firms. The increased usage of AI is leading to major progress in automating workflows, which in turn allows these workflows to be productized.
But the best examples of legal services being productized are probably the services offered by robot lawyers and legal chatbots. These services have completely been automated and turned into products that offer a solution to a legal problem. There already are solutions, e.g., to create legal documents and forms, to review contracts, to appeal parking and other traffic tickets, to offer first advice on divorce, or that will submit damage claims for you with regard to flights, that assist you with requesting maternity leave or in case of landlord contract violations, etc. And the list is growing on an almost daily basis.
So, what does it mean to productize legal services? Simply put, productizing legal services means that you are turning your legal services into products. Services are normally delivered one at a time. (Which implies that there is a limit to the number of billable hours one can do over a given period of time). Products on the other hand can be produced and sold at scale. Producing more products is a matter of enhancing production capacity. And with software solutions, that is not hard to do. Now, obviously, not all legal services lend themselves to being productized. But the three evolutions described above show that many can. A study found that, at present, 23% of the work a lawyer does can be automated. With the continued progress that is being made in the field of legal Artificial Intelligence, that percentage will only rise.
There are several benefits to productizing legal services. The first one, already hinted at above, is scalability. Not only does a robot lawyer, e.g., take seconds to review a contract, where a lawyer takes hours, but if it reaches its capacity, it’s just a matter of increasing that capacity, typically at minimal cost. A second benefit is predictability: With a product, you know in advance how much it will cost. A third benefit is a better match between offer and demand, as the client knows in advance what he or she will be receiving for his or her money. As a result of this, you gain consumer trust, which is a fourth benefit. A fifth benefit is that when you start productizing your legal services, you are really maximizing your productivity.
As the above examples illustrated, the role played by technology is crucial in productizing legal services. Only now have we reached a point where the technology is available to start productizing legal services. These technologies allow to automate the workflow and thus maximize your operational efficiency. They also allow the scalability of the solutions offered.
The way to start productizing legal services is by analysing processes and workflows, standardizing and automating them the maximum extent. If you want to launch yourself in the robot lawyer market, find a common problem, preferable in a niche that requires some expertise; analyse how much of the workflow can be automated, and if it can, offer an easy to deliver solution. Even without considering offering robot lawyer service, analysing workflows and processes at your law firm will allow you to automate them, which will benefit your firm.