For years, legal futurists have complained that the legal profession has not been able to create fully homemade products with the same widespread adoption rate as Turbotax. Most commentators blame outdated ethics and protectionism for the lack of success, but the truth is that the customer is the fault.
Because many customers don’t want a DIY solution to life’s problems like making a will or ending a marriage or protecting a trademark. They want to speak to an expert, and in most cases they want the expert to be an attorney rather than a paraprofessional. And DIY fell short for a second reason too: users don’t enjoy the same accountability that they would have when working with an attorney.
At the other end of the DIY spectrum are traditional Do-for-You (DFY) services. Here a lawyer interrogates the client, extracts the required information and drafts either a contract or a will or a trademark application or a divorce petition. Because DFY services are time consuming, they are expensive and beyond the price range of many customers.
Since 2002, when I started blogging and following solo and small business trends, DIY and DFY have been the only game in town for legal consumers. Sure, unbundled services were also an option, but even they fall into the DFY category – the work done by the attorney remains “done for the client,” but the attorney treats a narrower scope – like making a will but handling the Client authentication and submission by the client.
But the truth is, there is a huge market share between DIY and DFY that I like to refer to as DWY – done with your services. A direct example of the “done with you” service is Erin Levine’s Hello Divorce, where clients can attempt to fill out divorce forms but contact an attorney or paraprofessional with questions. Subscription Services are another type of DWY service where clients who encounter legal issues in their business can consult a lawyer several times a month to assist them if needed, rather than hiring a full-time outside lawyer.
However, these examples hardly scratch the surface of DWY services. A lawyer could host a class and guide participants through preparing a trademark application or drafting an EEOC complaint. You could have clients prepare the documents necessary for a small claims case or arbitration, but do the actual negotiation or arbitration.
DWY services are not for Luddites. Without the advances in technology that are leading customers by collecting information, DWY services would not work. DWY services are preferable to DIY, however, as they create accountability to ensure clients actually get the job done and lawyers stay relevant. That’s a win in my book.