Productisation and Service Design for Law Firms

What is productisation?

Lawyers traditionally treat each matter as a completely separate project, and there is little standardisation in terms of the solution being offered. Each engagement is deemed unique, and the service is adapted for the matter at hand.

Productisation is the idea that services, even those services offered by lawyers, can be designed in advance. It involves taking a service and developing it into a standard, packaged, and marketed product.

Productisation is NOT about selling cheap pre-built legal templates. On the contrary, even a premium legal offering, that includes personalised service from a leading lawyer, can benefit from an element of standardisation.

For example, you might offer a service to corporates whereby you help them define their internal compliance policy. This could be a high-end, personalised service, but could nevertheless be productised in a manner such as the following:

  • The client business requirements are gathered by way of pre-designed forms that the client completes. Perhaps a junior attorney sits in with the client while completing the forms in case assistance is needed.
  • Then an initial consultation is held to further understand the client’s needs and to review the information that was gathered in the form.
  • The lawyer then prepares the legal policy documents in a pre-determined format.
  • A final consultation is held to deliver and explain the report to the client.
  • Even though this service requires the lawyer to personally apply themselves to the needs of the specific client, we would consider this to be productised because the process is well-defined in advance.

You will notice in the above example that the service described is very similar to traditional legal services, except that the process and pricing are more well-defined.

However, productised services can also take the shape of something quite different to traditional legal services. This might be a legal workshop or course to educate managers about labour law compliance, or it can be a subscription service whereby you send monthly bulletins to in-house advisors about a specialised area of the law.

Productisation and Alternative Legal Services

We use the term productisation and interchangeably with Alternative Legal Services (”ALS”) because we view productised services as an alternative to traditional legal services.

There is a global movement towards Alternative Legal Services. This industry is reportedly worth in the region of $14 billion. But we think this is grossly underestimated because most studies of the ALS industry typically define ALS as consisting of tech enabled processes provided by large firms (for example e-discovery, and contract management services).

In our opinion, the true spirit of ALS is reflected in the countless firms who design their services in a creative and competitive way, creating a more efficient service, and offering better value for their clients. But these ALS providers are not reflected in most studies. It is therefore likely that ALS industry is much larger than the $14 billion quoted above.

Why should law firms offer productised services?

Productised services are not inherently remarkable. For the most part, they resemble ordinary legal services that are delivered in a slightly more predictable and pre-defined manner. What makes them noteworthy is that they enable a range of other activities and benefits which could be transformative for a firm. These include:

  • Service efficiency - A productised service has a pre-planned process which could be gradually optimised. The client intake process can be made smoother. Or you can incremently improve agreements, reports, or documents that are related with the service. This means a higher quality offering, delivered with less labour resources, and higher margins.
  •  Sharpens your marketing - When a services is broad (eg commercial law), your market is everyone. This makes marketing hard. When your service is very well-defined (eg register a company in Cyprus), you can market strategically, specifically, and precisely to people who need that solution.
  • Passive sources of income - Productised services are a step towards law firm automation. Over time, your services can become less labour intensive to the point where a service can be offered entirely online. The more automated and process driven, the more it allows for passive income.
  • Increases firm value - Productised services are part of your firm’s IP. This allows for the value of the firm to stem from its processes and passive revenue streams, making it easier for partners to sell at a high value.
  • Smarter use of seniors and juniors - Services can be designed so that they are delivered by your support staff as much as possible, with seniors playing an oversight role and focusing on the most lucrative matters. It is a more profitable way to operate.
  • Ability to scale and reach a larger market - Automation and process efficiency means that a firm is able to offer a service at a larger scale without over burdening its fee earners. The firm can focus on reaching a larger market, often beyond its geographical boundaries.
  • Pricing certainty - Productised services naturally lend themselves to fixed fee pricing, which is a win for clients and lawyers alike. It creates certainty for all parties. And it makes for a smoother collections process when there is no debate about the hours and fees.
  • Creates a clearer identity for the firm - Easier for people to recommend you. Easier for people to remember you.

Productisation is ultimately about being more thoughtful to the client. It’s about designing your services around their needs. Pre-empting their problems, and crafting a solution. The best productised services come from a place of understanding and empathy for the client. From the realization that going to an attorney is an expensive and risky process, and choosing to making that engagement more friendly and comfortable through a thoughtfully designed offering.

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