Future Law

Golden New Delivery Methods

Golden Delivery MethodsWhat do last month’s Golden Globe Awards, the State of the Union address and lawyers have in common? You may have guessed it: the use of new delivery methods yields awards. Or maybe rewards.

For the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox television networks, the 2015 Golden Globe Awards marked the second year out of the last three that they left empty-handed. Not one of the shows they broadcast received an award. For those of us who grew up having to stand and turn a television dial to change the channel on a television set, this is astonishing. And who were the winners of the Golden Globes? Marking their place as go-to platforms for quality content, “streaming services,” namely Netflix and Amazon, won big.

Golden Globes have been awarded since 1943 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to recognize excellence in film and television. Historically, networks have only had to compete with other networks for awards – but, not anymore. Entertainment columnist Matt Wilstein in The CW Was the Only Major Network to Win a Golden Globe Last Night noted that in order for ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox to compete in the future, “they are going to have to come up with something better than what they’ve got.”

To do this, the big networks might need to take some pointers from their competition. Streaming services – which allow people to access media (television, movies, music, etc.) on-demand over the Internet – are widely accessible, affordable, and relatively indistinguishable from network programing. Essentially, companies like Netflix and Amazon have become frontrunners in program content and delivery because of not only the content itself, but also the delivery of the content: available on any device anywhere chosen by the viewer, on a schedule determined by the viewer not the network’s schedule, and uninterrupted by unwanted commercials.

Presidential Delivery Methods Stake New Territory

Even the protocol-bound Office of the President has recognized the need to deliver messages differently. Remember last year when President Obama sat down with Zach Galifianakis on the parody talk show “Between Two Ferns” to tout enrollments on healthcare.gov? It has been reported that following the interview, traffic increased 40% on the website.

And last month’s State of the Union address? President Obama did not rely only on the networks to get his message out…you saw the pictures of him with the YouTube celebrities, right? The president has made it clear he will meet the people on the media they use. Good call. Nielsen released data that shows that the president’s speech was viewed on television by only 19.9 percent of American households—the lowest television rating of any such speech in more than two decades. Although fewer people watched on television, reports are the audience is growing: 1.2 million watched the speech on the White House website, 5.7 million liked, shared, or posted about it on Facebook and 2.6 million tweeted about it. Neilsen Social says one or more of those 2.6 million tweets may have been seen by 9.7 million people.

Legal Services Follow Suit

And the entertainment and information marketplaces are not the only ones experiencing these changes. Just as consumers seek their entertainment and news through different media, they are seeking legal services in different ways as well.

Consumers can receive on-demand, affordable online legal services. On Avvo, a person can choose a legal issue, pay $39, and receive a personalized product from an attorney within 15 minutes. Likewise, LegalZoom products (for example, documents for personal and family matters, wills and trusts, and starting and running businesses) are now are available as a Sam’s Club member benefit.

Dustin Cole in Sam’s Club Makes LegalZoom a Member Benefit discusses the commoditization of legal services. He divides the market for legal services into two halves, noting that “the bottom half of the market for legal services – the ‘commodity’ half . . . is going away from law firms, or becoming commoditized to the $39 level now offered by Avvo.” This is significant for attorneys because, as he notes, the “commodity” half is what makes up the bread and butter for a great percentage of lawyers.

Even among the top half of the market for legal services, Cole highlights that attorneys will need to take “dramatic steps to re-invent how they accomplish and deliver services.” All clients, even corporate ones, want convenient and affordable services. For some clients, these alternative online services provide just that.

This raises the question I’ve written about before: how can traditional practitioners compete in the fast-moving world of online legal service providers? Similar to the advice provided to ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, our profession needs to “come up with something better than what [we’ve] got,” which might mean moving past the traditional business model of face-to-face consultations billed at an hourly rate.



Lauren McGee, our intern from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, contributed to this post.

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