Currently, consumers can pick from a range of options for do-it-yourself legal services. You can get a divorce at OfficeMax, a will from Amazon, and dissolve a partnership with LegalZoom. Those are just a few examples, of course. There are hundreds of DIY legal documents available online and offline.
People who want to do their own legal work are, naturally, not likely to hire a lawyer in the first place. And people who hire lawyers do not want to do their own legal work.
Sure, the economy may be encouragement for some people to do their own legal work who would have preferred to hire a lawyer before 2008. The economy may also have encouraged some people to do their own home remodeling who would have preferred to hire a contractor before 2008. But the vast majority of non-DIY consumers have remained non-DIY consumers in both cases. They may put off the work until they can afford it, but they probably aren’t tempted to go it alone.
TurboTax exists, after all, but plenty of people still hire tax preparers and accountants.
So now is not the time to panic.
The time to panic is when the only thing you have to do to get a will or a divorce is push a few buttons. That is not DIY; that is more like hiring a lawyer to do something for you, only cheaper and without the uncomfortable waiting room.
Imagine going to a website for a will. It asks you to allow a one-time connection to your Facebook and Google accounts, then checks public records for any information it cannot get from your online accounts. Then it asks for the name of your guardian before spits out a good-enough will.
This is push-button legal service, not a DIY legal service. There are no complicated forms to fill out or documents to track down and upload. All you have to do is push the button that says Give Me A Will! This is not the stuff of the future, either; it should be possible to build a system like this using current technology. In fact, the Shake app is pretty close, although with a limited range of documents available, most of which do not require any extra information.
So … panic?
Well, if your practice is based on the kind of simple documents Shake has turned into push-button contracts, I would be worried even if Shake did not exist. But plenty of people have practices based on the kind of legal documents that make up most of the DIY legal documents on the market today. And those documents are probably the most likely to be transformed into push-button legal documents. So if my practice were based on them, I would probably be looking for a different practice area or trying to figure out how to offer legal documents with the push of a button myself, first.
Featured image: “Vintage DIY (do it yourself) concept” from Shutterstock.