What do you call a lawyer with his/her head in the clouds?
In 2016 the answer is: online.
Giving up bricks and mortar
Earlier this year Christchurch specialist commercial and employment lawyer John Shingleton hung his shingle in the cloud – literally. After 20 years (which included partnerships) he swapped the traditional model of providing legal services for the freedom of an online business.
It is, he says, one of the best, and cleverest, moves he’s ever made. Nowadays his clients come through his website , www.onlinelawyers.nz : the “open all hours” front door to his services.
Ten benefits of moving online
According to John the benefits to moving online are:
1. Lack of infrastructure!
It’s not needed, he says. That “flash-impress-the client” drain on resources place of work is the first thing to go. You do not need the address, or the myriad ongoing expenses of an office. Wages for administrative staff, cleaning, revamping the furniture, insurance … all gone!
2. Transparent fees
The tyranny of the billable 6 minute unit has largely been replaced with fixed fees. John says despite some people within the industry viewing that shift as a bad business decision, his customers love it. They appreciate knowing ahead what a particular piece of work will cost. They can budget for it!
Tolerance and acceptance of legal mystique he says is rapidly disappearing. The profession can no longer hide behind a mask of unquestionable privilege. Consumers of other services (for example building, plumbing, or dentistry) expect to know from the outset what charges they will incur. The projected costs are part of the decision making about whether or not to go ahead. John says lack of clarity about fees turns potential customers away. He says he relishes the opportunity to be direct – upfront about pricing, and that moving online allows him to be more competitive.
Where a client wants something more than a single unit of fixed priced work John will scope the requirements. The terms of engagement will be discussed and agreed to before work commences. Again the customer will not have any surprises!
Having the business online is great for everyone. There are no specific working hours or a physical location dictating contact. It can happen whenever is suitable for the parties involved. That says John is brilliant for people who for example would otherwise have to make appointments around the availability of a baby sitter for a child, or would struggle with transport, and then parking, to get to an appointment. The ability to work together from wherever and whenever breaks down potential barriers. Being online makes a business more accessible than ever before.
For the conservation conscious being online is a significant resource saver. The paperless (tree-saving) office is rapidly becoming the norm. Secure and safe systems exist to meet all your needs regarding your documents whether it’s storage, or transferring and sharing them. These, says, John, make conservation totally doable.
5. Easy collaboration and management
You can easily share documents and work on them collaboratively, while automatically tracking revisions. That’s an instant organizer, cutting down on the possibility of miscommunication.
6. Becoming more efficient
Being online encourages streamlining, and refining work processes. That in turn means being able to cater for more clients better than ever before.
7. Developing and target niche audiences
A business online is not limited by locality. It can draw its clients from wherever they are in the world. This makes delivering specialty services possible. The reach of a niche website, if good information is provided, can be vast.
You can choose where, when and who you work with. Using Skype you can pull a team together from all over the world. The only limits are finding mutually a suitable time, and language.
9. Saving your clients money
John says he felt increasingly uncomfortable with the size of client invoices, particularly when he knew that avoidable expenditure had added to their fees. The transparency of his online business fees makes him and his clients happier.
10. Lack of elitism
Anybody can visit a website and find the information they need to decide whether they want to take a matter further. That same transparency is not available in the bricks and mortar model of legal firms. Doing business via a website democratizes the process. Regardless of person’s economic or social circumstances a website’s “door” is always open.
For more about doing business in the cloud attend the Future of Law Summit – 22nd November, Auckland.
John Shingleton will share his experiences in a talk entitled: “The law firm without an office”. See the agenda.
Examples of commercial and legal services online
- https://www.proppy.co.nz/ – house sales entirely online – a revolutionary Auckland based service whose first auction is set for October 18th
- http://www.trustworks.co.nz/ – specialist online trust services
- http://www.onlinelawyers.nz/ – John’s legal business specializing in commercial and employment law.