For the past two days, I was thrilled to have my older daughter home for a brief 48-hour layover between an overseas trip and her return to her job up in Boston. Unfortunately, she brought with her a vicious cough and sinus infection that pretty much grounded her after her arrival. When it became apparent that neither rest nor the attention of her loyal furry sister were going to make her feel better before her flight, I pulled my supermom cape out of retirement and sprung into action (note: like riding a bike and unlike the pain of childbirth, momming is something you don’t easily forget).
First, I drove my daughter over to one of the three urgent-care walk-in clinics that have cropped up within a half-mile radius of our house. Within 45 minutes, she met with a doctor who emailed a prescription for an antibiotic and codeine-based cough suppressant to the pharmacy down the street. We zipped over, picked up the prescription. A half hour later after her first dose of cough medicine and decongestant, she was already feeling better as we headed to the airport for her flight back to school.
But I wasn’t off duty just yet. That evening, my daughter called frantically because she couldn’t locate the cough syrup which she’d had to pack in her checked bag. By that time, the urgent care clinic was closed and I wasn’t sure that the doctor would write a second prescription for codeine – and the closest clinic that my daughter could find was thirty minutes away. So I proposed Option No. 2: tele-medicine. It took a couple of tries but I found a company that serviced my daughter’s area, paid $69 and registered her for an appointment. A doctor saw her via video within thirty minutes and she picked up her new prescription this morning on the way to work.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the point of this story isn’t to boast about my parenting prowess but instead to show what life in the twenty-first century looks like for a busy single working mom with two adult-but-still-young daughters living in a state 600 miles away. Without new business models like urgent-care walk-in clinics or technology that allows for emailing a prescription to a pharmacy where it’s ready for pick-up ten minutes later or enables a doctor to visit with a sick patient by video at 10 pm and write a second prescription, a day that was little more than business as usual for me could have ended as an unmitigated disaster. Without the nearby clinic, I might have spent hours on the phone trying to locate a doctor to see us. Without the ability to receive a prescription with so speedily, my daughter might have had to cancel her flight and spend another day at home, then rebook and pay a penalty. Or she might have had to miss another day of work or another night of sleep without the ability to replace the cough suppressant.
And so, my question for the legal profession is this: where is the average consumer’s version of 21st century medicine? Much of the innovation in the legal profession these days is focused either on big-law or A2J initiatives for the indigent who cannot afford a lawyer. But between big-law and poverty, there’s a huge swath of the population who are too busy to make an hour’s drive to a lawyer’s office, and who would rather spend that $2500 that a lawyer wants to charge for a computer-generated estate planning document or pre-nup or separation agreement on a three day vacation. As I’ve said many times before, much of law is not. rocket. science. If a doctor can write a prescription after a 10 minute video consult, why can’t a lawyer – in most cases – review a client’s Legal Zoom document and make a few corrections and suggestions and charge $150 rather than $1500 for a full rewrite?
To be fair, there are lawyers (not surprisingly, mostly women, ) who are pioneering new ways to deliver legal services efficiently and at sensibly-priced rates to busy professionals. And of course, there are the myriad of non-lawyer options to prepare wills and prenups and separation agreements that are beginning to look like a far more appealing option to many folks if only because of the convenience.
As we enter 2019, it’s time for a change. Lawyers, please – as you evaluate the services that you offer or the type of firm that you want to build, please start thinking like a 21st century client and not like a 19th century lawyer.