The commoditization of the profession

October 4th, 2012 by Altman Weil

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog points out an interesting development in the consumer law market.  Jacoby & Meyers (of tv ad fame) has a new licensing deal with USLegal Forms, Inc. that brings them 85,000 legal templates and documents and an online outlet for their distribution.

“The move puts Jacoby & Meyers–which bills itself as “America’s Most Familiar Law Firm”–in a position to take on companies such as LegalZoom.com Inc., which provide consumers with a very cheap alternative to lawyers: do-it-yourself legal documents for divorces, wills, real estate leases and other routine transactions.

The difference here, according to Jacoby & Meyers, is that the firm will be able to augment the bare-bones product–say, a $20.95 will for a New York resident with no children–with legal advice from its own attorneys. That’s something other form providers cannot do, because in the U.S., only businesses that are wholly lawyer-owned are permitted to practice law. (Separately, Jacoby & Meyers has also pushed, thus far unsuccessfully, to allow non-lawyers to invest in law firms.)”

This may not seem immediately relevant to BigLaw, but it’s one more reminder of how legal expertise can be commoditized.

Read it at The Wall Street Journal Law Blog

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