In this month's "Big Ideas" issue of Law Practice magazine, Dennis Kennedy's article, The Productization of Legal Services talks about the possiblity of lawyers adapting traditional legal services into information products that can "make law firms money while they sleep" and act as marketing pieces for the firm's legal services which, as Kennedy points out, may result in potential clients actually paying lawyers to market to them.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the "commoditzation" of legal services, particularly with changes in technology and services such as LegalZoom which provide access to some legal services that were formerly the exclusive province of lawyers. Lawyers rail against this idea of commoditization, sometimes for good reason. But what if, instead of fighting against this trend, lawyers started to work with it?
What if, as Dennis Kennedy suggests in his article, lawyers began to look strategically at the work that they do and the parts of that work that could be turned into information products and distributed widely to the public either as pure marketing pieces or as low-cost introductions to the firm's services, reaching the market of those who cannot afford, or believe they cannot afford (at least initially) the firm's services?
If these potential clients couldn't hire the firm at their regular rates anyway, is the firm really losing money by providing these resources and making a small amount of money? Or is the firm adding to its reputation, providing needed resources and potentially creating an expanded market for their regular legal services? Some potential clients might use the product to educate themselves about the area and then decide that they do need help after all and contact the firm. Or they may contact the firm for a future need, recalling how helpful the firm's product was.
This strategy might be particularly helpful for solos, small firms and new lawyers who are seeking to build a reputation or become known in their community.
In his article, Kennedy suggests a nine step process for productization, including:
- Taking an inventory of the firm's information assets
- Identifying potential products
- Researching the market
- Determining who will create the products from existing assets
- Deciding how information products will be created
- Diversifying product offerings
- Setting prices
Of course, the decision to create and sell information products needs to be considered strategically. Kennedy also lays out some areas that firms should explore when creating these products, including those around ethics, compensation, and ownership of intellectual property in the products created.
What kinds of products might law firms create?
The article provides a few examples of information products that could be created by law firms, such as a software program that computes actuarial factors for tax planning, legal topic training videos, and a subscription-based research package. Other examples might include checklists (a checklist for individuals or businesses entering into a lease agreement), books or guides (a book on how to maintain your property for the greatest resale value, or a guide for HR managers on interviewing or keeping good personnel records), and more.
You might consider doing an inventory of your existing "assets" as the article suggests, even if you're not sure you're ready to begin creating information products. In my experience, most law firms have plenty of information that could be repurposed for marketing purposes, if not for sale, and many of these assets languish, forgotten, in law firm computer systems, rather than working for the firm. An inventory of these assets might even spark a great idea for an information product.
How do you think creating information products might help your practice? What kinds of information products do you think your clients would be interested in?