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New Business Models for Law Firms

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 30, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

'Horseback Law' is probably not what you think it is.

It is not equine law, where lawyers specialize in all things horse-like. "Horseback Law" is Google's law business model, a legal service tailored for fast-moving startups.

"Lawyer rides up, assesses the problem, offers feedback and moseys on," says practitioner-savant Carolyn Elefant. If you feel like saddling up, here are half a dozen new business models for law firms to consider.

New Tech Business Models

Elefant, a successful practitioner and popular blogger, says law firms need to consider new business models to keep up with changes in legal technology. "Many times, it's also necessary to innovate underlying business models to enable the technology to gain traction," she writes.

Along with Google's "horseback law," she suggests business models that incorporate technology and generally reduce costs to clients. In other words, they are precisely the opposite of the usual law practice business model. For example:

  • Eyeball Law -- lawyers charge a flat fee to "eyeball" clients' DIY projects
  • Jiffy Lube Law -- law frim franchises focus on a single service, like Jiffy Lube
  • Walmart Law -- large firm, all-purpose, operates with economies of scale, i.e. low prices

She also proposes Tiny Law Bot, which is pretty self-explanatory. That would be law bots at work on small tasks.

Innovation and Evolution

Virtual law firms, like many techlaw firms, are already in position to adapt such business models. They have built on technology to reduce costs, now they have to work on saving clients money.

But not every innovation is a technovation. Some lawyers find ways to use simple technologies to provide lower-cost legal services; it's really about survival of the fittest business models.

Mark Cohen, a contributing writer for Forbes, says traditional law firms are becoming obsolete for several reasons. He cites the "profit-per-partner" problem, and says it's not hard to predict the end.

"That does not require a crystal ball or a Ouija board; a growing body of evidence points to advancing obsolescence of the incumbent partnership model," he writes.

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