Articles Tagged with “Wall Street Journal”

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Wall Street Journal

You have NO IDEA how much I nodded my head when picking up this morning’s Wall Street Journal and seeing reporter Sara Randazzo’s article on Time to Rank the Rankers of Lawyers? It has seemingly been a huge part of my work days over the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait by your mailbox for the November/December 2017 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine to see the marketing column I authored for it a few weeks back entitled Revisiting Lawyer Ratings and Rankings, which is a follow-up to my 2014 column, The Impact of the Three R’s: Ratings, Rankings and Reviews—which still draws e-mails and phone calls. In the column, I highlight past and present issues with an industry that is still burgeoning and remains largely unregulated (despite generally failed attempts by state bars and even the Better Business Bureau) to reign them in.

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In August, I wrote about the Consumer Reports evaluation of online do-it-yourself legal sites (Legal DIY sites no match for a pro). This week, Wall Street Journal reporter Jennifer Smith writes on “No-Frill Legal Services Grow,” addressing many of the same DIY websites.

The impetus for the article is the lawsuit filed last month by LegalZoom.com against up-and-coming rival Rocket Lawyer. It is ironic that these entities are now fighting over what is and is not “free” in terms of form filing and other stuff where you apparently either don’t need a lawyer, or perhaps just need one that works for them at really cheap rates. Interesting side note: Both LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer have real lawyers doing the fighting–I don’t think they are using their own self service offerings.

The debate often revolves around the potential “unauthorized practice of law.” Regardless of the semantics involved, the consumer is thinking this is a cost-effective way to resolve a legal issue. It is not like this business is new. Strip malls stores (Divorce! Bankruptcy! Wills!) have provided similar services for decades. Storefronts such as “We the People” have largely evaporated (thanks in part to the Internet and in part to State Bar issues with unauthorized practice). In recent years, the online offerings have changed the language in describing offerings to something akin to providing documents and/or providing a lawyer somewhere that can answer questions.

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On an obviously slow news Monday, the Wall Street Journal front page touts “Law Firms Face Fresh Backlash Over Fees.” Jennifer Smith reports on the “widespread revolt” over big bills for “legal miscellany.” I can tell you that there is nothing new in this news from much of the last decade. But it does allow me the chance to once again discuss the issue of nickel and diming clients–often those that are paying seven figure invoices based simply on billable time.

Is this a marketing issue? It sure can be. While many in big law won’t change things anytime soon, small, midsize and boutique law firms recognize that this provides an opportunity to offer up a “differentiating factor” in selling its legal services. Often lost in price comparisons are the costs that go beyond the billable hour, depositions and filing fees. Those extra costs–planes, trains and automobiles; hotels, dinners, legal research and copying–can inflate the final tally by quite a lot. It is like looking at the $25/day rental car rate, only to find the actual cost to be around $70 after taxes and related charges.

All I know is that when I meet litigation friends in Philadelphia, often in town for a matter in federal court, we are usually getting together at the Four Seasons. Dining ranges from Morimoto to Buddakan; Morton’s to the Fountain. When you are working hard and traveling extensively, I’m not suggesting that we treat ourselves to anything less than first class accommodations. Unless, of course, the corporate counsel is staying at the Marriott. It is important to get a feel for the travel policies of your clients, and come in even or lower. There is nothing more damaging than outclassing the guy or gal that hired you during a trial. And when you get less work later, nobody will ever tell you why–the GC will just remember it when glancing at the final bill.