The Productization of Legal Service: The Future of Law?

JD Supra Perspectives

The legal industry is changing as clients purchase legal services differently. There are major themes driving this change:

  • Thinking differently: General Counsel are seeking law firms that think creatively to meet their needs.
  • Commoditization: Alternative legal service providers are commoditizing legal services.  
  • Technology: Technology is driving major improvements in efficiency, cost saving and services. 
  • Innovation: Innovation is the new norm.

Law firms need to learn how to compete in a world where the legal profession is becoming commoditized, all the while our lawyers want the traditional, strategic legal-advice work. Productization of legal products is one way to stay competitive to meet client needs in the future of our profession.  

First, let’s go over a few basic definitions:

  • Product: a single thing sold to many customers. It provides an answer to something that does not necessarily have a problem. Here you may “build a better mousetrap.” For example, there are many ways you can prepare your taxes, there is not a lack of resources, but tax software is a recent product that makes it easier.
  • Service: a unique one-off for an individual customer. A service company is a company that provides an answer to a problem, but usually without a (physical or sold) product. Law firms are service companies. We compete on talent, experience and client service for legal advice.
  • Solution: applying a product to solve a need. It is taking a product and customizing it for an individual to meet their needs. For example, if you want to build an app you can contract with an app platform and their team will work with you to customize it to achieve your project objective. 

The question is: how can you turn your law firm into a solutions provider?

Is there a product you can build that opens the door to new clients for strategic legal advice? By using a product and service together, you potentially have a solution for your client.

There are marketing and sales benefits to building legal products:

  • It can become a differentiator. It is great for marketing and profile building and is great for relationship building. 
  • Some law firms are talent management firms. A product is a way for your firm to position its lawyers as thought leaders.
  • It is great for strengthening relationships with current clients and creating relationships with new clients. It is a true door opener.
  • Products are great for revenue generation. Some firms develop products as loss leaders, some do it as independent revenue generators. 

How can you look for product opportunities?

You do deductive research. You start by studying your environment. Then listening to your clients to come up with a strategy.

Start your research by studying the global macro factors that may impact your client’s businesses.

  • Political: What is the political environment and how do you expect things to change or be enforced?
  • Economic: What is the economy like? Is there a recession or is there a bull market?
  • Social: What is the social climate? What moments are happening that may affect needs and opportunities?
  • Technological: what are the new opportunities offered by rapidly changing technology. Todays mobile environment and social communities have made innovative and disruptive business models possible.
  • Legal: How are new laws continually impacting how companies conduct business?
  • Environmental: What is going on in the environment that may impact community and company behavior?

Second, look at your clients. As law firms we need to be aware of organization inhibiting and supporting factors. We need to also listen to our clients and watch their actions. By studying client matters we may find a pattern that signifies a need, even if our clients are not verbalizing it to us. If we ask our clients questions, we may learn something.

studying client matters we may find a pattern that signifies a need

Finally, look inward. An important question is: what is in it for our firm? What is our strategic business objective?

Strategy is where opportunities, needs and delivery come together.

By thinking about who your firm is, what you want to achieve, understanding what is going on in the marketplace, and knowing client needs, it can start to become clear what your firm’s opportunity is. Is there an innovative way to design something that delivers both client value and law firm value? 

This is how productization of legal services works. This is the future of our legal profession.


[Helena Lawrence is the lead product developer and marketer for Orrick’s award winning GDPR Readiness Assessment Tool and global marketing campaign.]

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