Most businesses realise they need some kind of legal assistance but many feel it is too expensive or that they are contracting a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. The rise of affordable legal services, which might include advice and mediation without the need for a private lawyer, has changed the legal landscape in recent years.
Best-selling author and futurist Professor Richard Susskind has predicted this trend, as well as how digitisation might affect the industry. “We (lawyers) are not immune to changes in the digital environment,” he says. “Individuals in need of legal counsel are driving change. If the market demands lower costs, we have to rise to the challenge.” The past decade has seen the move towards email-based service online consultations legal services offered at a flat rate. This has resulted in efficiencies that have brought down costs. The era of sitting in a lawyer’s office for hours just to get a consultation is over. Susskind says the COVID pandemic has also shined a bright light on how things can be done differently in terms of court cases: “What was thought to have been a 10-year plan to move the world’s antiquated court system to a remote one actually only took a few weeks. Susskind also explains that people don’t want lawyers – they want justice. So lawyers should look at ways to make technology provide it.
In South Africa, we have also seen this trend with the rise of quality legal services being offered at an affordable monthly fee as opposed to high hourly rates. Clients are encouraged to communicate via email or online video services and the focus is on settling the matter before it gets to court. Services offered can be comprehensive, including; contractual matters, labour, consumer protection and debt-collection services.
If you have a small or medium-sized business, consider a legal services package instead of an in-house team of lawyers. After all, as Susskind says:
“It’s better to have a fence at the top of a hill than an ambulance at the bottom.”
The End of lawyers, Susskind 2008, thomsonreuters.com, entrepreneur.com
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