So, I’m finally back to work and blogging after some highly aggressive bout of flu or sinusitis knocked me off my feet for almost five days. When my symptoms reached the point where I felt too nauseous and feverish to leave my bed, I knew that it was time to seek medical help. As has been the case for the past year, I didn’t even consider calling one of the doctors listed with my health care plan – the office isn’t particularly convenient and in any event, wasn’t open on Sunday. Instead, I had my husband drive me around the corner to an urgent care clinic that opened in our neighborhood last year. Staffed by a friendly, hardworking, young doctor and a few aides, the clinic is open twelve hours a day, seven days a week and features walk-in service. For the past year, it’s been my family’s go-to place for sprains, colds, physicals and other healthcare needs.
Although I experienced a bit of a wait, I was glad to see this young doctor’s risk was paying off. Moreover, his apparent success offers many lessons for lawyers, particularly those just starting out. First, even though this doctor isn’t part of a corporate brand like the CVS Minute Clinic (located just a quarter of a mile from his office), he’s able to compete both because he’s a doctor and offers personal touches that the Minute Clinic doesn’t – like calling patients the next day to follow up and see how they’re doing and keeping records so that patients don’t have to fill out lengthy forms for repeat visits. While the doctor’s clinic doesn’t have the same advertising reach as the Minute Clinic, he’s been very effective in getting the word out through Yelp (a sign in the office displays a link to where patients can post positive AND negative review). In fact, the day that I was in the office, a woman from South Carolina in town for business told me she’d found the office through the positive testimonials online. Plus, the doctor’s work ethic doesn’t hurt either; every time I’m in the office, at least one other person will marvel at how the doctor can work an 80-hour week.
The lesson here? The advantages that the doctor brings over the Minute Clinic are the same that a real live lawyer offers over Legal Zoom (and in fact, Minute Clinic can issue prescriptions while LZ can’t practice law). Consumers can appreciate the difference.
What’s also interesting is how this neighborhood clinic model is overtaking the traditional methods of delivering medical service. A decade ago, few folks but the poor or uninsured sought medical service at a clinic, preferring instead to visit a family doctor or a primary care physician on an insurance plan. But this means an appointment, at least a day’s wait (no fun when you’re really sick) and a potentially inconvenient office location. The clinic visit is inexpensive enough that even if it’s not covered by an insurance provider, it’s not a problem for most consumers – plus the convenience and immediate service well outweigh any added cost.
That’s what is so neat about the clinic model. It serves an unmet demand that exists but that many of us never knew we had until a service came along to scratch that itch. In that regard, the clinic model is, in many ways, like the $25 DC-NY-Boston buses that I blogged about here which offer a low-cost, convenient alternative to traveling in the Northeast Corridor.
What is the unmet need that legal consumers don’t realize they have? Some say virtual offices; I’ve suggested travelling lawyers or maybe
concierge services. Whatever it is, there are plenty of unmet legal needs out there waiting to be addressed by lawyers. Opportunity abounds for those lawyers with the prescience to spot those needs and the stamina to see it through.