It's an increasingly common complaint among lawyers: Do-it-yourself legal websites are stealing potential clients.
But instead of complaining about being undercut by online competition, perhaps your practice could rise to the challenge and beat these DIY legal websites at their own game.
Here's a look at what these DIY legal websites offer, and some ideas for how your law firm can compete.
LegalZoom: Among the pioneers of DIY legal websites, LegalZoom offers flat-fee legal documents. (FindLaw has partnered with LegalZoom to provide free access to many commonly requested legal forms on our website.) LegalZoom also now offers paid membership plans so users "can receive an entire year's worth of legal advice from an attorney for the price of a typical billable hour," general counsel Chas Rampenthal wrote in The Washington Post.
Rocket Lawyer: This San Francisco startup offers free access to online forms such as business contracts and property titles. Users must register to access the forms, but they no longer have to enter their credit-card information. (The company stopped asking for that in December.) For a fee, Rocket Lawyer can connect users with local attorneys.
LawPivot: This site offers "crowdsourced legal advice for businesses," for a fee. Users can post public or confidential legal questions, which are answered online by attorneys hoping to drum up business. Lawyers can join LawPivot for free.
USLegalForms: Another flat-fee forms website that touts its state-specific model legal forms. USLegalForms offers prices that "save up to 90% versus professional fees." The site also allows users to post legal questions to lawyers.
Customers seem to be drawn to DIY legal websites because of convenient pricing, packaging of services, and use of interactive online tools. You may want to consider some of these conveniences for your own practice.
Case in point: Global law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe now offers a "Start-Up Tool Kit" with free resources for tech entrepreneurs, the Post reports.
Your firm could try taking similar steps, for example:
Think about which services you can bundle together in a cost-effective package for different types of clientele.
Perhaps some of your firm's services could be more competitive by charging a flat fee.
Consider using online chats, Google+ "hangouts," or message boards to make your firm more accessible to clients online.
The sky's the limit for coming up with creative ways to compete in an increasingly connected world. Investing in innovation can give DIY legal websites like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom a run for their money.