When the Internet was first coming into its own, Hollywood envisioned our life with computers and data reading as one with lots of tool-style interaction. It was thought computers would end up producing the most amazing food generators, TVs everywhere, microwaves with programmable environments, consumerism at the fingertip and maximum convenience via technology. Instead, the Internet grew into something far more subtle and fundamental in our lives; it became a necessary tool for us to find information regularly and function. The space-age microwaves and toasters didn’t manifest, at least not yet, but the Internet is fast becoming our “everything,” at least in terms of digital reach and information exchange.
The legal field has been no exception to the progress of the digital world. What used to be entirely the domain of working attorneys and law offices with research and face-to-face client meetings has now become a competition between boilerplate digital products people can download and the traditional interaction. Yet, in reality, it’s now “normal” of legal services. For basic legal services, the Internet has quickly become the go-to source for most consumers and small businesses, especially those looking to save money versus paying conventional legal fees. The services involved, of course, are not very complex. They are typically predictable legal tools such as basic wills for estate planning, limited liability corporation establishment, or basic contract and agreement templates. Deeper research and, of course, litigation representation are still safely in the domain of human attorney hands for now.
The above said, a good amount of basic legal fee generation comes from simple form preparation for clients. The litigation world of big cases and big settlements is a bit like winning the lottery. It happens, but definitely not to everyone. Most attorneys spend much of their time just producing documents. And this is where the online world can become a big threat competitively. If a product can be defined by writing, it can also be defined in a template. So far attorneys have been generally protected by the ability to “customize” a legal document or representation, but this is a simply a matter of taking enough input from a client and matching it to appropriate legal output in the form of writing, a call with other parties, or research advice. The digital world has already figured out how to do two of these three functions automatically. The Siri mode on an Apple iPhone is a simple example of verbal input and research-based correct output that is now automated.
The differentiating factor, according to Bloomberg, of a live attorney is experience, an aspect that digital coding and templates can’t duplicate or emulate. And that real experience comes out as skill, being able to think on ones toes about how to apply the law to a situation that keeps changing. That is the true value of a human attorney over the Internet. The digital world will continue to provide packaged services and products, some tailored as much as possible based on predictions of the most likely legal needs. But only a true attorney can adjust on a dime and catch the nuances that often make big differences in the success of a case. So when clients are choosing between downloading the next PDF document from LegalShoot.com or direct advice from the Law Office of Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, Esq., the emphasis of adaptable skill and how it is marketed can tell consumers which one is better for their needs.