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August 6, 2010

e-Lawyering: A Must for Today’s Lawyers

The delivery of legal services is shifting to the Internet, yet only 52 percent of solo practitioners have a website, said Richard S. Granat, a Palm Beach, Fla., lawyer and chair of the _ e-Lawyering Task Force, sharing that lawyers have a long way to go in meeting the expectations of today’s legal consumer.

Speaking at the 2010 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco today, Granat said that if lawyers do not embrace the Internet as a platform for service delivery, they will continue to lose market share to the alternatives.

These alternatives include self-help websites such as LegalZoom, which today offers more than 1,000 downloadable legal forms and brings in millions in revenue each year. LegalZoom helped consumers create one million wills last year, Granat noted. Such non-lawyer entities have been much savvier about utilizing new technologies and meeting customer expectations than traditional legal service providers. As a result, business for online providers is booming.

While online legal websites may never replace the kind of service consumers can get from face-to-face interaction with lawyers, Granat pointed out that there are a number of unbundled legal services that lawyers can offer on the Internet.

“Virtual lawyering is not just about sending e-mail,” said Granat. It’s about creating a website structure where consumers can assemble docs, pay fees and get legal advice.

These types of services can help lawyers get their foot in the door with some clients, providing opportunities to engage them for other services that aren’t available online.

Granat suggested lawyers start with creating an online payment system, which can often help justify initial investments in e-lawyering technologies.

To help lawyers get started with e-lawyering, the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s e-Lawyering Task Force offers a webpage with resources and external links, including “Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Information Web Site Providers.”

“Keeping Pace with the Evolving Practice of Law” was sponsored by the National Association of Bar Executives, National Council of Bar Presidents and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

In addition to Granat, the session also included Steven Mark, commissioner for the New South Wales Office of the Legal Services Commissioner, Sydney, Australia. Frederic S. Ury, NCBP secretary, served as moderator.

Learn More About:  Annual Meeting 2010Technology Law