Specialisation of consumer legal services the ‘next wave’
The legal sector is continuing to evolve and the segmentation and commoditisation of consumer legal services will soon follow that of corporate legal services, according to the director of lawlab.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, lawlab director Ian Perkins (pictured) said that technology is enabling law firms to offer specialist legal services nationwide, not just to businesses but also to consumers.
"What we're seeing now is a new kind of law firm that specialises in a particular area, aided by technology," Mr Perkins said.
"Rather than doing all kinds of law in one suburb or city, they’re doing one kind of law but doing it nationally, and with technology they can reach a broader market and still efficiently deliver services."
While this is somewhat commonplace in the corporate law sector, Mr Perkins said specialist firms focused on consumer law are beginning to emerge in response to a change in the way consumers want legal services delivered.
"There is a next wave coming and that next wave is supporting consumers in our community," Mr Perkins said.
"The segmentation of the consumer market is now following the segmentation of the last 20 years of the business market and there's going to be a greater provision and greater access to specialist legal services for consumers going forward with the ability to digitally deliver that."
Mr Perkins said the increased accessibility and trust that consumers have in technology since 10 years ago is driving this change.
"In 2006 only corporates who had enterprise grade software and enterprise bandwidth could actually engage with remote services from law firms or accountants or consultants," Mr Perkins said.
"Now everyday people through their mobile device have actually got the bandwidth and the ability to access digital service delivery, so specialist service providers can now expand their market to consumers because technology enables them to."
Conveyancing is one consumer legal service that has already shifted online with the likes of PEXA, however, Mr Perkins believes this will rapidly expand.
"I don’t think we're far away from seeing the full suite of services that consumers consume being available digitally," he said.
"In the past, consumers either didn't get legal advice or they got it from a non-expert suburban practitioner who was geographically close to them. Now they want specialist and cost-effective providers of the niche services they need for the range of points in their life where law touches them."
As consumers are more cost-conscious, Mr Perkins believes that with this segmentation and specialisation of consumer legal services will also come commoditisation.
"Once upon a time consumers would go to a lawyer and they would be $300 an hour, and they were very much a service," he said.
"Now in the consumer space you're looking at the consumption of products, or commodotised services that have been broken up into discrete packages."
A final trend that Mr Perkins thinks we will see is the collaboration of specialist consumer law firms to create referral networks.
"There's a comfort level among practitioners to work with their colleagues and let the client go elsewhere for other things," he said.
"Then the consumers are served by the best employment lawyer they can get access to, the best small claims lawyer or debt recovery lawyers they can get access to, the best wills and the best conveyancing services, but it’s not one company anymore and it’s not in their street, it’s through looking online and finding the providers that suit them."