Building Legal Products: Turning Legal Services into Legal Applications

What Are Legal Products and What Does it Mean to “Productize the Law”

“Productizing the law” refers to the idea that work relating to the delivery of legal services can be sold not only as a service, but also as a product.  At Documate, we believe “productizing the law” is part of the future of legal service delivery.

Building legal products can be done by standardizing client deliverables, usually through document automation, chatbots or “robot lawyers”, allowing those deliverables to be scaled, marketed, and sold like products. While services are usually delivered in a bespoke manner, attorneys can build a single software tool and sell it at scale. This is sometimes called “unbundling” the law, because legal services can now be packaged as several separate steps.

Productizing the law allows attorneys to democratize the law, because they can now market to a segment of the population who never would have been able to afford their hourly rates, but who can afford a smaller fixed flat fee that is also cost-effective for the attorney.

Productizing the law allows attorneys to democratize the law, because they can now market to a segment of the population who never would have been able to afford their hourly rates.

Why is building legal products so popular right now? A few reasons:

  1. Demand for certainty through alternative fee arrangements (AFAs), because clients want to know how much they’re going to pay for legal services (particularly where these legal services are predictable and process-oriented for the lawyer).
  2. The “more for less” challenge (as Richard Susskind calls it). Clients are asking their attorneys to do more work, at the same quality, for less money.
  3. Rapid technology improvements through the growth of computing power and AI.

How Do You Start Selling Legal Products?

First, identify a specific legal problem or issue that occurs with sufficient frequency such that many customers will want the solution you are offering.  By focusing on areas in demand, this allows you to scale the product.  A simple example would be custom or bespoke documents that can be generated by the client using your product.  The possibilities are endless.  Second, market your productized legal services.  Here, you want to show the value of your product to the potential buyer.  Third, take advantage of automation, particularly document automation.  This allows you to minimize your transaction costs by using technology every step of the way, from creating the legal product to handling sales through your website.

What Are Some Reasons For Productizing Legal Services?

Fundamentally, there are two categories of good reasons to productize legal services:  Client benefits and attorney benefits.

Client Benefits of Building Legal Products

Tangible, certain, credible, and easier to commit to.

Many clients, both individuals and entities, prefer to purchase legal services that are readily definable.  Typically, legal services are intangible, relatively open-ended, and measured by time, making it difficult for clients to know what they are getting for their money.  In contrast, by productizing your services, clients are able to easily identify, define, and evaluate your tangible legal product, which facilitates their trusting it and buying it.

Many clients also prefer to know, upfront, what their costs will be.  The costs of traditional legal services are often opaque and unknown because they are usually billed as a function of time.  By productizing your service, clients have an upfront flat price that makes it far easier for them to commit to purchasing your product.  The upfront flat price also puts the buyer’s focus on the value of your product:  Because the client knows the price at the start, the client evaluates your product in terms of its utility, not in terms of how long it might take to accomplish the work.

Attorney Benefits of Productizing

Freedom, higher potential profits, ability to sell while you sleep, and reduced risk.

For the attorney, creating process-driven documents and workflows can be efficiently automated, which frees the attorney’s time for higher-value work.  Creating standardized legal products through document automation is also likely to generate higher profits – among other things, such products can be sold 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, because they are sold online.  Creating standardized yet customizable legal products also results in more consistent quality, less risk, and the ability to train staff (instead of junior lawyers) to monitor the automated service delivery of the products.

Revenue Models for Legal Products

With the move to standardization and systematization of legal services, alternative fee arrangements are being requested more frequently by customers. So how can you structure your fees for legal products? Here are a few ways to think about:

Fixed fee (e.g., set of 5 estate planning documents will cost you X dollars)

Subscription based (e.g., you will have access to a forms site for a recurring monthly fee of X dollars)

Product + Service (e.g., you can generate your documents for X dollars, and additional hourly services above that will be X/hr, or a discounted package rate)

These are just a few examples of the benefits of turning your legal services into legal products through “productizing the law.”  In upcoming articles we will discuss this topic in more detail, including specifics about how legal products can be built and the thought process that goes into building them.