THE SMART CHOICE
(For entrepreneurs when looking for legal services)
October 2020 / Reading Time: 6 minutes
E-lawyering sounded like a total science-fiction concept a few years ago. “What do you mean by legal services offered exclusively online?” was the most common reaction when people were first introduced to this concept. Back then, the undeniable benefits of the online legal services were not that visible. The notion of classic lawyering, when we go to our lawyer’s office, was too well imprinted into our minds. It was quite difficult for us to comprehend that it might be possible, one day, to contract any kind of legal services without actually going physically to a lawyer’s office. A few years ago we would’ve needed a semi-Eureka moment just to be able to imagine that our lawyer can actually be someone located outside our residence, outside our city or, totally crazy I know, someone from a different country than our own.
But then, advanced technology entered the scene and the benefits of the online legal services became more and more visible. We’ve embraced the technology and started to combine it with the open mind that we’ve always felt we have. Then, all of a sudden, the concept of a remote lawyer didn’t seem like science-fiction anymore. It actually made a lot of sense, like it’s natural to be this way: simple, accessible, time-efficient, better targeted to our legal needs and less expensive.
Getting all this for the trade of a physical meeting in a distant office? Yes, please. It’s just common sense. And all this without us actually leaving the comfort of our homes or missing from our businesses’ current activity while travelling to see our lawyers. Because, indeed, even though our lawyers’ offices were maybe just ten blocks away, it always felt like travelling when we attended a meeting with them. Most of the time, it involved clearing our schedule for the day and preparing tons of documents to bring with us. On top of it, it was the constant worry not to forget to ask them those particular questions that tormented us, because we knew that if we forget, then a new meeting was necessary and that meant a new “travel” and, almost always, a new fee we had to pay.
As a lawyer, I’ve been on both sides of the realm. For over a decade, I played for the “offline team”, in three typical brick-and-mortar law firms. The first one was where I had the two-years mandatory apprenticeship, while the other two law firms were founded and, respectively, co-founded by me. Most likely, you know the characteristics of the offline team. It’s extremely professional and reliable, just like the postman that brought your correspondence for the past 10 years. You’ll have to search hard to find something that can be held against the offline team. It’s a neat team that will definitely serve you well.
Nevertheless, the members of this team were always immersed in a greyish and mostly boring world, in terms of professional challenges. And one thing is for sure: although they do not necessarily lack the abilities to keep up with the technology, these guys don’t really want to do it. They always feel like they belong to an aristocratic flock that ceased to exist long before they were born. The one where all they’ll need to do is to give orders while other people will handle for them all the things they dislike. Or, a bit more modernly put, the things they labelled as nonsense, such as the gimmicks that some nerds from Silicon Valley call technology or artificial intelligence. For a member of the offline team, having a mahogany desk with a dusty, yellowish hundred pages Civil or Criminal Code on top of it, is the definition of being a real lawyer. Nothing can disrupt this feeling for a member of the “offliners”.
Yeah … I never really felt like I belonged to this team. Ten years were not nearly enough to wash my brain or to stop me from daydreaming about a modern, technological approach of law. When technology made possible the creation of a new team of lawyers, the “online team”, I was as enthusiastic as a four year child getting chocolate. Soon after, I made the switch to the newly formed team, without looking back even for a second.
Being able to do my legal work using the newest online technologies, made me feel like a fish in the water. After the first quarter as an exclusively online lawyer, I knew that the key to success was just a matter of finding the rightful combination between all the legal knowledge accumulated during the offline period and the tremendous online opportunities made possible by advanced technology. Boy, I was happy to be in the online team. More than a year later, I still am, every single working day. And this priceless feeling is still here with me, long after the moment I made the decision to fill out a transfer request to the new team.
When thinking about the not-so-distant past, the thought of re-joining the offline old camp seems like choosing to live in a cave after you’ve just discovered how to build a fancy two story villa. This feeling constantly drifts me away from the traditional concept of law practice. And how can it be otherwise? If you’ll just stop for a moment and consider all the advantages the online universe brought to the people who were searching for professional legal services, you’ll get my point.
Consider this simple scenario regarding the value and costs evaluation of an online legal service: your business is now a continental if not even a global business as a result of the internet boom from the last two decades, and you’re in the need of a lawyer to assist you in the signing of a new contract with one of your new, foreign, business partners. You know that this new contract contains a lot of specific clauses related to the commercial laws of the country where your new business partner is located. Yes, there are many common clauses in a commercial contract, no matter the applicable law, which won’t represent any problem for your local lawyer. However, most of them are just clauses that are hard to leave a big impact upon the success of the contract, hence their common feature. The real clauses that often lead to a successful business are the specific clauses, the ones which involve a great deal of the applicable law’s knowledge.
A few years ago when you were in this situation, usually your first thought was to call your local lawyer and ask to have a look over the contract. But this cannot really be a valid option anymore, not in the era of the mighty world wide web when we know that acumen it’s a key skill to have for an entrepreneur, and not just a weird word.
You remember the last legal opinions you’ve got from your local lawyer regarding the contracts you received from your new, foreign, business partners. Consequently, you decide that spending money for another generic legal opinion that comes from a British solicitor regarding the interpretation of some specific German, Italian or Romanian Law contract clauses, will not cut it for you this time. And then you do what any other responsible entrepreneur will do.
After asking your family, friends and trusted business partners for a recommendation, you start your own online search for a lawyer with a law practice in Germany, Italy, Romania or whatever country your new business partner is located. You know that this kind of lawyer will likely handle a little bit better the national legislation of those countries than your, otherwise very competent, local attorney.
Doing your own research is a healthy activity for an entrepreneur. In addition to forming an unfiltered opinion for yourself, it also keeps you anchored in the online trends flux. And who can blame you for conducting your own research? After all, you’re about to close an important business deal for your company and having beside you the best possible lawyer is one of the smartest things you can do.
Rest assured, you’re not the only entrepreneur that does this, you’re just one of the smart members of the smart-business-decisions club, who is among the over 33% of the people who start looking for a lawyer online. Moreover, according to this search engine marketing statistics from 2020, searches drive over a third of clients to a particular lawyer and the vast majority of the people seeking legal advice start their journey online. Again, it’s just common sense for the era we live in.
I could continue for hours to exemplify why stepping into the online world to handle the legal needs of their company is a smart choice for entrepreneurs. But that’s not really the point, as I don’t want to glorify the online team of lawyers over the offline team, since both of them are top-level teams. The point, the only point that matters, is that all of us should make the smartest possible choices regarding our businesses, regardless of the area in which we operate. As it happens, starting from the last couple of years the smart choice is to support the online team. You will fall in love with this team for sure, as it has the same core values and technological aspirations as your own business. And, overall, these things matter a lot!
Thank you for your time!