Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom: How the Online Law Business Affects Your Business

The success of Legal Zoom, the online legal forms service which advertises heavily on the web and on talk radio, has apparently demonstrated that there is money to made in the low end of the legal services industry. Wherever you find money, you’re sure to find Google, which recently invested in Rocket Lawyer, the newest contender in this growing market.

What does this mean for your practice?

For most lawyers, the answer is “not much”. Online legal services are still small relative to the size of the market and inasmuch as they primarily provide forms and access to inexpensive legal advice, provide no direct competition. Unless of course your practice targets the same lower end of the market and in today’s economic climate, more and more attorneys are doing just that.

I don’t have a crystal ball but here are a few of my predictions:

  • No matter what the economy does, the online legal services industry will continue to grow and continue to take business from attorneys who offer commodity-level services to consumers and small businesses.
  • Attorneys who continue to target the low end will find it harder to compete with the simplicity, speed, and lower costs available online.
  • The attorneys who survive this trend will be those who (a) abandon this market altogether, in favor of higher level services (e.g, “asset protection” vs. “simple Wills”) or offer services where the hands-on advice and ongoing involvement of an attorney is mandated, or (b) get very good, and very creative, at marketing and finding under-served niche markets where they can carve out market share.
  • The growth of online legal services will expand the overall legal services marketplace, ultimately leading to more work for all attorneys. How that work is distributed and at what price points is the multi-billion dollar question.

Never fear competition. Embrace it, learn from it, prepare for it. Competition will make you a better attorney and, in the end, make you more money.

Evernote helps lawyers get organized and get things done

Thirty years ago, if you asked lawyers what they thought about all the information they had to manage in their practice, I’m pretty sure you would hear words like “swimming,” “drowning,” and “SOS!”. I know that’s what I would have said.

Our files and file cabinets (and desks, and floors, and side chairs. . .) were bursting with information: client data, research, pleadings, discovery, notes, correspondence, memos, briefs, inventories, photos, receipts, transcripts. . . It was a constant challenge to keep up with everything.

Then, we’d come into the office on Monday morning to a pile of mail, phone messages, and a new stack of files, on top of all the unfinished work from the week before. We had to keep up with our reading–case summaries, newsletters, magazines, memos–and we had to make sure our library was current. Law books were updated monthly or quarterly with inserts (remember “pocket parts”?) or loose leaf pages and sometimes, we’d get the latest updates only to find the previous updates unopened in a box on the floor. We had to insert the previous update first, even though many of those new pages were themselves replaced by the most recent update.

The amount of information in our lives was daunting and we often felt overwhelmed.

Wimps! Yes, wimps, I say!

Seriously, look at our lives today. Not only do we have so much more information, it’s everywhere. In our files, on our computers at home, in our email, and on our phones. It follows us, mocking us as we attempt to keep up with the never-ending flow. Just when you think you might be close to ALMOST catching up, another thirty “must read” articles, emails and Google alerts appear and you know there will be another thirty before lunch. Oh, and let’s not forget text, instant messages, tweets and status updates.

Technology has damned us. And technology will save us.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the information in your life, relax, take a deep breath, exhale, and repeat after me: “I will never get caught up and I don’t have to.”

Because you don’t have to, even if you could. What you do have to do is become a better librarian.

Librarians manage vast amounts of information. They read a lot but they don’t read everything. Instead, they know what they have and where to find it, and if you want to gain control over the tsunami of information that washes over you every day, you need to do the same.

Librarians have a system for processing, storing, and retrieving information. They

  • Collect,
  • Categorize,
  • File, and
  • Find.

They had a system for doing this in the non-digital days (remember card files?) and today, they use technology. You can, too.

. . .if you took away every piece of software I own and left me with Evernote (and an Internet browser) I could run my two businesses, blogs, and personal life without missing a beat.

I don’t practice any more but I still have an immense amount of information I need to manage. After many attempts at other software solutions, today I use Evernote for everything. In fact, if you took away every piece of software I own and left me with Evernote (and an Internet browser) I could run my two businesses, blogs, and personal life without missing a beat. (Actually, I could be 100% cloud-based and use only the Evernote web app instead of the desktop client.)

Evernote allows me to collect, organize, label, and access information (notes, docs, task lists, audios, photos, etc.) at any time from anywhere. My Evernote account syncs my laptop (windows), my iPhone, and “the cloud” (web app). I enter information via my desktop application, via email, and via a web clipper that allows me to capture entire web pages or any portion thereof. With my iPhone (Android and other platforms are also supported) I record audio notes, take photos of a whiteboard or paper notes (or anything else), and enter text notes, and send them directly to my EN account.

Notes are organized via notebooks and tags. I can quickly find whatever I need by browsing or by searching tags and/or key words. I can also share notes and notebooks with my wife or business partners and I can make designated notes (or notebooks) public.

I store everything in Evernote: notes, web clippings, ideas, checklists, pdfs, photos, my copy writing “swipe” list. I’m moving all of “My Documents” into Evernote. Then, I’ll start scanning the mountain of paper notes I have collected over the years and go 100% paperless. In addition to having ubiquitous access to my information, Evernote provides an extra layer of back-up protection. If my computer goes down, my information won’t go down with it. (I also back-up my local EN database via an external drive and via Mozy.)

But I don’t just use Evernote for storage and retrieval, I also use Evernote every day as part of my work flow. I write everything in Evernote (this post started out there) and I use it all day long as (part of) my task management system. (I’ll share my gtd system in a later post.)

Evernote won’t let you jettison your time/billing or document assembly applications and it won’t let you edit videos. It doesn’t create spreadsheets or Powerpoint slides. But for managing large amounts of information, I’ve found nothing better. I’ve used OneNote (and loved it) and before that, InfoSelect (and loved that, too) but Evernote stands in a class by itself.

Evernote is free and there is a paid version with additional capacity and features. Download it and fall in love with it today.

Read Part 2 of this series.