June 01, 2014

Online Paper Mills: Are They a Threat and How Do We Compete?

David Hiersekorn

Technology can be a lawyer’s greatest friend, and it can be our worst enemy. After all, we have wonderful document automation software that makes it possible to prepare legal documents much faster than before. And the Internet makes it possible to communicate with large groups of people at little or no cost.

We can do our job more efficiently and for more people. Times should be great, right?

Well, not exactly. See, non-lawyers can use that same document automation technology to prepare documents that seem similar to those prepared by a lawyer. And they can use the Internet to sell those services, just like we can.

But it’s worse than that. Lawyers are restricted by ethical rules and malpractice liability. Our non-lawyer competition can say things we can’t. They can promise smooth, easy sailing without fear of client-specific complications. They can use testimonials in ways that no lawyer could consider. And the largest online document services command enormous marketing budgets that no individual lawyer could ever match.

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