What would Google do... if they were a law firm?

Posted: 04 November 2010

I recently read Jeff Jarvis’s book ‘What Would Google Do?’ It is a must read for lawyers in the 21st century as it deals with the reasons and need for the transition from the old way of doing things to the new way.

Today Google has about 87% of the market in the UK. They have beaten Bing, despite it being run by Microsoft who have all the money in the world, and they have beaten Yahoo, who had the biggest online brand. How did Google defeat these mighty foes? The answer is – servant leadership and “you can’t compete with free”.

Google always looks to be open and be the platform others can use to serve themselves. It does not look to control people but to empower them. Yahoo had a “come to our website” approach to business, whereas Google distributed its services. You will find Google Network advertisements on millions of websites, making money for those website owners but genuinely helping people find what they are looking for by placing ads alongside relevant content.

So if Google started a law firm in the UK, how would they go about it?

  1. 95% of services would be free and accessible from any computer in the world. At www.lawontheweb.co.uk you can see how we are doing exactly this.
  2. Clients would get to pick and choose exactly what they needed from a lawyer.
  3. Prices for the services would be transparent and based on an open market fluctuating auction.
  4. Clients would get to pick the key performance indicators of their lawyers (price, friendliness, lack of jargon, speed, expertise, social impact/philanthropy, success).
  5. Every client would get to review their lawyer against the above indicators. Great lawyers would move to the top of the list and not-so-good lawyers would move down. It would be a bit like Ebay’s community ranking system. This would mean great lawyers would get a lot of work.
  6. Services would be delivered in a virtual manner – no offices, flowers, china tea cups... but secure Skype conferences, and at whatever hours the clients request. Who wouldn’t find it more convenient to contact your lawyer for personal matters between 5 - 8:30pm?
  7. Every lawyer in the Google ‘Firm’ would attract ‘links’ or recommendations from other professionals which would illustrate who is good at what. Clients would know a lawyer is an expert in their given area.
  8. Turn the public into your friends – word of mouth referrals are how most businesses become great. Why not share the fees the solicitor earns with the individual who referred a client? If I knew I could earn £300 for referring friends to a law firm, I would probably be more inclined to do so.
  9. Keep an open source record of all cases (minus confidential details) so that people can search for a lawyer who has worked on a case virtually identical to theirs and then read the reviews.
  10. Get solicitors and barristers to publish insightful generic advice every day. Access to justice is a big deal – the more lawyers help with this the more they should be rewarded with clients.

I have a list of 82 disruptive ideas that will shake things up a bit for lawyers. At their heart they are all intended to surprise and delight the public, but many will be unpalatable for law firms. The first one is top secret and we have been working on it for 12 months. It will take a big part of the legal industry and offer identical services for free. No catch... why? Because it is probably what Google would do.

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis ( www.buzzmachine.com )

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