“People would visit my website, see my Google calendar, choose their own times, [and] tell me their symptoms. My iPhone alerts me, I do a house call and they pay me via PayPal.”
Those are the words of Dr. Jay Parkinson, a pioneer in telemedicine and innovative healthcare services, from his PopTech address in 2008 (pick it up at about the 3:15 mark). He was describing his Net-enabled medical practice, and maybe the future of law practice, too.
“I communicated normally,” Dr. Parkinson recalled. “I didn’t have any office, I didn’t have any staff—I had the internet and your apartment. It was really the world’s first primary care practice. It enabled me to practice medicine and solve 90 percent of [patients’] problems.”
Translate those words into the legal context and you have today’s idea: Be the world’s most client-accessible lawyer.
Find ways to build your law business by meeting your clients in their homes, in their businesses, on their terms. Thanks to Skype, a lawyer and her client can hold a private video chat at virtually no charge, so long as each has a videocamera on their computer (an increasingly common feature). Mac owners can use iChat much the same way.
Think about it. How many services do you offer that require direct physical proximity to your client? Very few. It’s often said that law is a personal relationship business and that nothing beats face-to-face interaction, and I think both of these things are true. But Skype-enabled video meetings accomplish each of these goals without tying up your client in traffic or forcing him to leave the office for three hours in the middle of the day.
And on that note, who says your office hours need to be standard? Many people who need a lawyer’s help have to book time off work to do so—difficult to do in tough economic times, more difficult again if the office is actually the source of the legal problem. So offer extended hours for clients whose work or home-care responsibilities make 9-to-5 appointments challenging. I once read about one Boston lawyer who ran a part-time practice that operated only between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., seeking to serve precisely those clients who can’t get away during the day.
If banks can stay open past “normal hours,” so can law offices. If a doctor can diagnose a patient’s condition without actually being in the same room, a lawyer can provide advice and services in the same way. Think about transforming the “where” and “how” of your law practice and becoming extraordinarily accessible to your clients.
Jordan Furlong addresses law firms and legal organizations throughout North America on how to survive and profit from the extraordinary changes underway in the legal services marketplace. His blog, Law21: Dispatches from a Legal Profession on the Brink, has been honored by the ABA Journal as one of North America’s 100 best law blogs.
For more ideas on improving your client communications and accessibility, read “Happy Clients, Happy Lawyers: Tips for Better Client Relationships.”