Take a look at this summary chart from the report – and let’s run through how law firms stack up:
Value, Availability, Convenience and Ease Consumers’ top three priorities are great deals, availability of products, convenience and ease. Note – consumers did not specifically state that they want bargain basement prices or deep discounts. Instead, a preference for a great deal implies a desire for enhanced value for the price charged.
Value Most solo and small law firms fail on these metrics miserably. For starters, because many law firms are so focused on their hourly rate, they never stop to consider whether they deliver value. Some firms believe that they’re a good bargain because their hourly rate is less than the other law firms in town – without ever realizing that a $250/hr lawyer who requires 20 hours to draft a motion is a far worse deal than a $500/hr lawyer who dispatches the project in 5 hours.
In any event, value isn’t only about cost but proportionality. A law firm that forces a client to answer a 25-page online survey and charges a modest fee to auto-generate a 150-page will and trust package or 45-page lease isn’t necessarily delivering value but instead engaging in overkill. An attorney’s value derives not just from knowing everything that must be included in a legal document, but also from understanding what can be excluded depending upon circumstances. Moreover, shorter documents also serve another priority identified by consumers – convenience – because they don’t require a 2-hour phone call or meeting to explain.
Availability Consumers also prioritize the availability of products. Translated to legal services, this means that consumers want someone who can assist them with a problem now, not a month from now. Yet many lawyers still pride themselves on lack of availability – “I’m booked three months out,” boasted one attorney at a recent panel that I attended. Now of course, many lawyers are very busy with other clients – which is why clients could use a service that offers quick answers to relatively simple questions. Yet when Avvo extended its Ask A Lawyer program to consumers, regulators in five states promptly tarred the service as impermissible fee splitting because lawyers would split the $39 cost to ask a question with Avvo, a non-attorney. In an effort to avoid this outcome, Text a Lawyer – a platform that would allow consumers to text questions to a lawyer for a deminimus charge – came up with its own contortions – yet a year later, is only launching in one state in beta for landlord tenant law, according to the website. In short, even though Deloitte’s study found that consumers want products available when they want them, regulators would rather prevent consumers from getting what they want to protect them.
Convenience and Ease Not surprisingly, time-pressed consumers yearn for convenience and ease when purchasing products online. They want products that are easy to find and easy to pay for. Google and social media have made it easier to find law firms online and most law firms finally accept credit card payments though sadly, hold outs remain.
Personalized Experience and Great Online Support Somewhat surprisingly, consumers ranked online support and personalized experience lowest of their priorities. It’s not clear what drives this preference: it may be that when buying retail products instead of legal services, customers don’t care as much about service so long as they get a good deal. By contrast, consumers may be more demanding about strong service when it comes to legal services which are expensive and often procured because clients have no other choice. Does this result mean that lawyers should ignore customer service or resist tools that allow for personal customization of emails and documents? No, of course not. But lawyers starting out may be better off using generic tools or Google Voice instead of paying money that they don’t have to hire staff or even outsource to a receptionist given that clients may not care about it as much.
The Deloitte Report contains other interesting insights on today’s consumers – and for that reason, it’s worth a read. I’d be interested in hearing whether your clients share the same characteristics as the consumers described in the Deloitte Report – so please add your views to the comments – or on our Facebook Page here.