In the world of evolving do it yourself estate planning legal services, the possibilities for getting estate planning help on line are increasing every day. This being the case, a colleague and I were recently discussing “possibilities” for using “the web” to enhance our Florida estate planning clients’ experience in ways that haven’t truly been offered. From that discussion arose 3 web based ways to enhance estate planning legal services. These are of course just a starting point.
Another great starting point is to examine who is already making noise in the legal “web-o-sphere”.
One thing is clear, much to the chagrin of many lawyers, venture capitalists are pouring money into one of the last areas of commoditization on the web. There are companies such as Rocket Lawyer, which has raised over 30 million in capital to date, and Legal Zoom, which has raised much more, that have offered the consumer access to an array of legal templates for estate planning documents of all types. Of course, these companies are primarily “self help” legal services and operate under scrutiny from lawmakers concerning the unlicensed practice of law. Other companies such as AVVO, which has risen to the top of the legal search engine game, have shied away from document production and have focused on offering a database of lawyers, complete with a ranking system and a Q & A service for consumer questions.
Given the limitation of these two common web based approaches to legal services, perhaps there are more effective ways “to be discovered” for estate planning lawyers in Florida, and other states, to assist an estate planning client via the web?
3 Ways to Enhance Estate Planning Legal Services Through the Web
I can think of three ways to serve the estate planning client’s real needs using web based technology at a much deeper level than is being offered:
1. Provide Estate Planning Clients an Education Process through Ongoing Blog Posts and Video Technology
What I do know from speaking with thousands of clients is that they often are confused and do not know where to turn for guidance. Attorneys are very adept at creating reams of paperwork and for this reason there is also an abundance of estate planning content on the Web. However, in my opinion, folks need to know what is most important in plain language. They also need to know what is relevant to their unique circumstances and they need to feel confident that the information is up to date. In my experience, too much technical legal information will, for obvious reasons, cause the consumers eyes to glaze over in sheer boredom. So, the approach to education needs to be offered in an easy to understand format, either in a video, written or audio format and this should be organized by relevant topic.
2. Provide Estate Planning Clients a Better Introduction to the Lawyer through Technology
Because clients do not know who to trust or where to turn, they often rely upon referrals from another trusted advisor, friend or family member. So, when they begin to research, it would serve the client to know who the estate attorney is and why he/she is reliable and trustworthy. While this may sound obvious, the sheer extent of content on the web is overwhelming to clients and the estate practitioner needs to communicate his/her trustworthiness and experience simply and effectively. One way for an estate lawyer to make an effective introduction is via a video that explains to the prospective client who the attorney and what is the focus of his/her experience.
3. Connect Estate Planning Clients With The Right Practitioner to Accommodate Their Estate Planning Needs Through A “Vetted” Network
Q & A works ok except that the consumer often has no idea who the lawyer is that is answering the question…wouldn’t it be better if they knew who was providing the information and they had been “vetted” as an expert? Worse yet, Client’s often are dealing with complex matters that may be beyond the scope of the average practitioner and the last thing they need is the wrong advice. I encourage estate lawyers to become part of a network of other estate lawyers with a variety of expertise. It is important for estate lawyers to know his/her limits and when it is necessary to bring in co-counsel who focuses in a given area or refer the matter to another professional. Of course, partnering with another professional can become a great learning experience if one stays in the loop as a point person for the client. We all benefit from our networks and serving the client by connecting him with the right expert is a huge value add. On the web, this could be accomplished by adding a “Resources” page to your website that lists your referral partners in various specialty areas.
The bottom line, whether you’re an estate lawyer or an estate consumer, is to aim higher when thinking about web-based legal services and information…because times are changing.