Amid the seemingly ubiquitous discussions of “will lawyers be replaced by [insert the latest innovation],” perhaps a more important question for lawyers and the legal profession is being obscured: Why don’t more people with legal problems currently turn to lawyers as the solution?
According to a 2019 report issued by World Justice Project, 66% of the individuals surveyed in the U.S. reported experiencing a legal issue in the past two years. Of those, fewer than half reported accessing help from either a lawyer/“professional advice service” or government legal aid organization. When people did seek guidance, they most frequently consulted family members or friends.
Importantly, only 13% reported that “it was difficult or nearly impossible to find the money required to solve the problem.” This finding underscores that the issue of unmet legal needs is not wholly driven by the inability to afford legal services.
Accordingly, it cannot be resolved by simply expanding access to legal aid or pro bono legal services. So, what is the answer? How can attorneys build sustainable legal practices that embrace innovation and meet public needs?
Providing legal services vs. addressing legal needs
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and Advisor to Clio, Clearbrief, and Tangibly, will address this question and more at the upcoming virtual Future Is Now: Legal Services conference.
In his talk titled “Build Your Law Firm Pyramid,” Britton will explain how lawyers can better engage members of the public who have legal needs but are not turning to lawyers to meet them. He posits that such an approach will empower lawyers to build sustainable legal practices while transforming the legal profession into one that is more responsive to the public.
Britton will share why lawyers should spend more time thinking about the legal needs they are attempting to address as opposed to merely focusing on the legal services they are capable of providing. This mindset shift will help lawyers more clearly see the legal market from prospective clients’ perspectives, thereby enabling them to more clearly define and communicate the ways they are trained to serve the public and better meet clients’ needs and expectations.
Moreover, developing this problem-solving perspective may help attorneys cultivate a greater number of long-term relationships with clients who come to view lawyers as trusted advisors to whom they can turn in times of need and uncertainty.
Becoming a trusted advisor
If the World Justice Project’s survey results are accurate and many people do want a trusted person to advise them when facing legal issues, then perhaps lawyers’ fears of being replaced by artificial intelligence are overblown, and the real emphasis should be on earning the public’s confidence and trust.
To learn more about building a responsive and sustainable legal practice, I invite you to attend our virtual Future Is Now: Legal Services conference, to be held virtually on Thursday, April 20, from noon – 4:20 p.m. CDT.
Additional sessions will highlight (i) the consequences of incivility on the legal profession and justice system, (ii) how attorneys can advocate for their mental health and well-being, and (iii) how developing cultural competency can expand your client base and enhance the quality of legal services delivered.
Click here to register; we hope you can join us!
The virtual conference will be held on the HopIn conference platform.