Who are your biggest competitors?
If you didn’t list one of these: RocketLawyer.com, LegalZoom.com, UpCouncel.com, LawDepot.com, then you might have a dangerous blind spot. To explain why we first have to understand a little bit about Industrialization.
The Industrial Revolution took hold in America in approximately 1820. In 1913, Ford installed his first assembly line and the process to build a model T, which took twelve hours to complete, was reduced to just two hours and thirty minutes. The next one hundred years saw hulking industrial robots taking over the dangerous or repetitive job, 3D printing developed for rapid prototyping, integration of safe and easy to interact with collaborative robots, and finally ubiquitous and consumer-friendly 3D printers. In two hundred years, America’s industry went from fully artisanal to having industrial production safe and affordable in consumers homes.
Now let’s look at the profession of law. Hammurabi’s code was one of the first examples of a widespread code of law in 1760 BC. Athens gave birth to the first people who could be called Lawyers around 620 BC. People could argue in defense of the accused in a court of law, but it was forbidden for these “Proto-lawyers” to be paid for their services, so at that time it was a calling, but not a profession. 250 AD saw the first Law school established in Beirut.
The American Bar Association was formed in 1878, and about one hundred years later Lexis Nexis was founded. Document Management Systems (DMS) started helping firms manage their data in the 1980s, but the two industry leaders didn’t show up until the late 1990s. Then suddenly in 2016, the first AI lawyer was hired by a firm.
In more than 2630 years, the only major change to the practice of law was getting paid. Generally speaking, each case is still looked at as an individual and handcrafted. That is not only slow and inefficient, but also leaves lawyers, law firms, and their clients vulnerable to human frailties. People get tired, make mistakes, and frankly, are just plain bad at some tasks.
It's time for law firms to implement the tools of industrialization.
You’ll need four major components: A Factory floor, an Assembly line, Robots, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Simply put: your DMS is your factory floor. Once all of your work product is in one place, you can start efficiently applying tools to it, banging it into shape and sending it off to satisfied clients. In addition to it being efficient to keep your work product in one place, it is also more secure, thus reducing your risk of breach and theft.
Next, you need to build your assembly lines. Workflows are an essential first step not only toward efficiency, but also to automation. Pick a process and write it down on paper from start to finish. Then draw the process out in a Process Map. There are plenty of powerful tools you can use for this, but in the beginning, you can get away with using PowerPoint, Word, or Paint.
Now you’ll have noticed repetitive tasks in your workflows that could be handled by a robot or RPA (Robotic Process Automation). Don’t be intimidated by the jargon; if you’ve ever set up a rule in Outlook, then you’re already a master. Microsoft Flow is free for anyone with an Office 365 subscription and has hundreds of RPA templates, connections, and helpful tips for the neophyte.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the final stop on your path to industrialization. It is important to note that AI and RPA tools do not eliminate work; they eliminate tedious, repetitive task, thus allowing the human workers to get more done, faster. There are a lot of mature AI products on the market to help with everything from contract review to eDiscovery and Litigation support.
So why are the four .com’s I mentioned above your biggest competitors? They’ve applied all the tools I just described, thereby commoditizing simple everyday legal needs. Consumers can buy their legal needs at any time of the day or night without needing an appointment or fighting traffic. These companies have freed their legal staff from the dull and repetitive work that leaves people burnt out, bored, and careless so that they can focus on the more complex and exciting legal needs that their clients have.
Through Industrialization you will become more efficient, more consistent, able to support a larger client base, and more profitable. And that’s only the beginning…