9 SEPTEMBER 2012
RAISING THE BAR WITH "SHARED VALUE"
"The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning; to create a product or service to make the world a better place." -- Guy Kawasaki
The next stage in the evolution of capitalism will revolve around an inspiring goal called Creating Shared Value (CSV) according to Michael Porter, a renowned Harvard Professor and celebrated business scholar. He reaffirmed that "businesses fail to sustain their growth when they fail to address the problems that societies faces. Trust diminishes as companies are perceived to be prospering at the expense of the broader community. "
Creating Shared Value is not about doing charitable work. It's about creating a business model that makes the society better as the business flourishes. Companies create shared value by finding opportunities to solve social problems such as feeding the hungry, housing the homeless or by helping people access legal services that is often critical to their well-being and freedom.
Interestingly enough, shared value accomplishes three worthy ends simultaneously. It raises society's well being, improves the reputation of capitalism and makes businesses grow. Corporate giants such as Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Intel, IBM and many others have joined a growing number of other socially motivated entrepreneurs in the pursuit of making more meaning within their industries by applying the principles of shared value.
With millions of people who are neither rich enough to pay $250 an hour for lawyers nor poor enough to qualify for legal aid, the need for creating shared value in the legal industry has never been greater, wouldn't you agree? Perhaps the opportunities have always been there but have just been overlooked until now.
So, how can lawyers better serve the existing market ? How can they access new markets by servicing people who cannot afford the present costs of legal service? And what technological innovations would allow us to lower costs while still making money we need to be making?
The potential demand for personal legal services is higher than ever, but much of this goes untapped despite our surplus of legal talent. By addressing these prevalent issues in the context of "shared value" perhaps we could develop new models for delivering and pricing legal services on a much greater scale than previously ever imagined.
Serving existing markets: What if we were able to provide a platform that allowed people to discuss their legal issues with more than one lawyer at once? Rather than having to call and call and drive from office to office, spending time, stressing out, only to find that they cannot afford the legal fees. Everyone would benefit from the efficiencies created by such a platform.
Expanding to new markets: What if a platform for lawyers and their potential clients were directed at people who needed legal help - people who the present legal system has been unable to help due to current pricing barriers? A typical lawyer's fees are over $150 an hour, and often $250 an hour. What if this platform offered a voice to people who can afford something, perhaps something less $100 per hour, and to talented, passionate lawyers who were willing to serve clients for these lower fees?
Lowering costs through innovation: What technological characteristics would this platform need? I believe that it will need to be web-based, be transparent, easy to access, and inexpensive. I also believe that it will need to place a restriction on the fees charged, so that it offers a fair platform to people who need these services the most. It will need to be secure, inexpensive and scalable. We need a platform that encourages cost reductions, promotes networking between the consumer and the legal professional and creates employment. It will require collaborative actions at levels our industry has yet experienced but aren't the benefits worth the efforts?
We must act soon…
While addressing the American Constitution Society in June 2010, eminent law scholar and Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe said, “The whole system of justice in America is broken … The entire legal system is largely structured to be labyrinthine, inaccessible, unusable. The problem is especially acute for the middle class."
A platform that fosters connections between under-employed attorneys and the middle class, would be a start in the right direction. Transparent, upfront, low cost pricing would be beneficial for both the industry (attorneys) and for the market (the under-served middle class). Convenience by leveraging technology would be a no-brainer and reduce time and frustration. That's Shared Value – a business that can provide a platform for attorneys and consumers – a legal services model where transparent, low cost pricing is the norm, not the exception.[By Cynthia Martin, President | www.law99.com, 9/18/2012] #legal #services #law99 http://bit.ly/PK1N8z
Michael E. Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School. A university professorship is the highest professional recognition that can be awarded to a Harvard faculty member. A leading authority on company strategy, the competitiveness of nations and regions, and strategic approaches to societal problems, Professor Porter's work is widely recognized in governments, corporations, non-profits, and academic circles across the globe. A sought after teacher, he also chairs Harvard Business School's program for newly appointed CEOs of multibillion dollar corporations. Professor Porter is the author of nineteen books and numerous articles including Competitive Strategy, Competitive Advantage, Competitive Advantage of Nations, On Competition, and Redefining Health Care. A seven-time winner of the McKinsey Award for the best Harvard Business Review article of the year, Professor Porter is the most cited author in business and economics.
"SMART TRUST" IN THE LEGAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
In his ‘Essays’, Sir Francis Bacon wrote: “The greatest trust between man and man is the trust of giving counsel.”
Indeed, there are few professional relationships where trust matters more, than those between lawyers and their clients. Oftentimes, people turn to a lawyer during a crisis that involves considerable financial loss and emotional pain. People share their deepest concerns and secrets with their lawyers, and rely on their counsel. It goes without saying that what defines this relationship, more than the lawyer's skill or knowledge, is the trust they enjoy.
However, how much are lawyers really trusted? To find out, the American Bar Association (ABA) carried out an extensive consumer survey in 2002 (*). Ten years later, I doubt anything has changed much, unfortunately. Based on extensive nationwide interviews, the report stated that Americans perceived lawyers as being “greedy and manipulative”. They complained that lawyers “are not upfront about their fees and charge too much for their services”. 69% of those surveyed believed that lawyers are more interested in making money than in serving their clients. The report further states that “for the consumer, legal services are among the most difficult services to buy. The prospect of doing so is rife with uncertainty and potential risk.”
In this atmosphere of chronic mistrust, shouldn’t we all be asking ourselves, how can we build more trust in the legal services industry? Recently, I discovered a very special book – “Smart Trust – Creating Prosperity, Energy and Joy in a Low Trust World” by Stephen M. R. Covey and Greg Link. It adeptly addresses our ‘trust’ deficit as a society today as well as offers amazing insights into how we can all start transforming our mistrust into Smart Trust and by doing so enjoy more prosperity.
One of the many stories shared in Smart Trust, is of a banker and Nobel Peace Laureate from Bangladesh, who founded Grameen Bank. We all know that banks don’t loan money to poor people (no surprise here). But, Grameen Bank challenged this old assumption, took action and began offering microcredit to the poor. People that banks deemed unworthy of their trust. People with no opportunities were now being trusted to use the money to build their lives. Today, Grameen Bank enjoys one of the highest repayment rates in banking - a whopping 98 percent – all from borrowers who could not even sign a loan application form. By following the principles of Smart Trust, Grameen Bank has transformed the lives of millions of people.
Wouldn't it be nice if the legal service industry, could transform the lives of millions of Americans who currently can't afford legal services but also don't qualify for pro bono. The middle class, the middle that's been left out. ABA’s 2002 consumer study revealed that nearly 7 in 10 households suffer problems that require legal counsel. However, over half of them do not even consider hiring a lawyer. The cause, a lack of trust and the high cost of legal services. With a surplus of lawyers who need more clients and, I believe, truly want to help more people, why is there such a huge unmet need for legal services today? What paradigms and strategies should we be re-examining, what assumptions should we be challenging and perhaps changing?
Current industry pricing practices and strategies is obviously an area that needs to be re-examined based on the overwhelming data presented. And, it's not just about pricing. It's about how pricing is communicated to the consumer. Ever notice how most legal providers or referral websites, rarely, if ever disclose legal fees? Occasionally, there's mention of a discount, but a discount off what? This practice can’t possibly promote trust, can it? No one enjoys the disappointment of high cost fees, or of wasting valuable time in a law office only to discover they can’t afford legal representation. Consumers today expect transparent pricing based on clear value, delivered with convenience, so why should they expect less now from the legal services industry?
As an industry, we need to start seriously exploring alternative models for pricing and delivering legal services. Models that go beyond filling in forms online. Models that utilized real attorneys in real communities and not virtual. Models that focus on the needs of all types of consumers and their economic realities. Change is neither comfortable nor easy, but what's the alternative? According to Stephen M. R. Covey and Greg Links, Smart Trust is our alternative. Read the book. Who knows, we might just be able to create some prosperity, energy and joy along the way, and isn’t that what we all REALLY want?[By Cynthia Martin, President | www.law99.com, 9/11/2012] #legal #services #law99 http://bit.ly/S7bBG1
ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE: A CRIME OF THE TIMES -- Elder abuse is a growing epidemic that not only affects seniors [...] [By Eric Einhart, The Student Appeal | www.thestudentappeal.com, 12/6/2011] #elder #law http://bit.ly/OSiQmq
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER WHO ARE MOVING FURTHER APART -- Mediation aka Alternative Dispute Resolution may be worthwhile considering before entering into conventional litigation and its associated costs. [By Martin Murphy, Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC | www.massachusettsfamilylawfirm.com, 8/21/2012] #mediation http://bit.ly/OSiQmq
8 AUGUST 2012
HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS FROM LEGAL ISSUES DURING THE HOLIDAYS -- […] How to cope with […] financial or legal problems when you just want to focus on enjoying the holidays with family and friends. […] [By Janet Martin, Attorney at Law | www.heartcorewomen.com, 12/19/2011] #bankruptcy #debt http://bit.ly/S4T7ME
CORPORATION OR LLC IS NOT A "GET OUT OF DEBT FREE" CARD -- [...] It is a myth that forming a corporation or limited liability company will safeguard your personal assets in all situations. [...] [By Donna Berkelhammer, North Carolina Law Life | www.nclawlife.com, 8/27/2012] #business #law http://bit.ly/S52b4b
WHY WE BUILT LAW99™: UNDER-SERVED MIDDLE CLASS COULD SUSTAIN UNDER-EMPLOYED ATTORNEYS -- The economy continues to inflict financial distress [...] [By Kendall Coffey, Coffey Burlington | The National Law Journal, 8/15/2012] #law99 http://bit.ly/NuywQb
ARE YOU A VICTIM OF "ROBO SIGNING"? -- Fighting credit card debt collectors? Going to court may be your best bet. [The Opinion Pages, The New York Times | www.nytimes.com, 8/19/2012] #bankruptcy #debt http://nyti.ms/Rw2x3A
WOULD YOU HAND OVER YOUR FACEBOOK USER NAME AND PASSWORD? -- When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password. [By Shannon Mcfarland, Associated Press | USA Today, 3/21/2012] #business #law http://usat.ly/NrIhhJ
THE FRIENDLY DIVORCE -- Of all the words that come to mind when thinking of divorce, efficiency doesn't fall high on the list. But taking an alternative approach to divorce and avoiding the traditional court process can be faster and easier. [By J. Richard Kulerski, examiner.com, 6/3/2009] #divorce #family http://exm.nr/NIqRZc