Three Market Invention Trends for the Legal Industry

The traditional operation model for legal services is antiquated. Historically, the market has tolerated rampant inefficiency and low value for price. Lawyers typically don’t score high on the “benefit to society” scoreboard, either. But modern consumers want change: there is a growing demand for legal firms that engage with clients and operate with speed, accuracy, and convenience. And consumers want this efficiency at a much lower cost.

A wave of new legal firms is surging to meet this demand. These firms are using the principles of Market Invention to reshape the legal service industry. Let’s take a look at three ways legal firms are challenging traditions and catering to consumers in 2018.


Millennials represent one of the most lucrative market shares today. Across industries, Millennials are securing majority positions both as corporate players and as consumers. If you want to optimize your law firm, you have to have to keep a finger on the Millennial pulse.

One way for firms to cast themselves in a positive and progressive light is by adopting eco-conscious practices. 80% of Millennials claim that environmental and social causes weigh on their purchasing behavior. Besides practicing the growing field of “green law” (fighting for the planet), lawyers can reduce carbon emissions and contribute to environmental causes. It’s an opportunity to help the earth and score reputability with younger generations.

Millennials commonly research even small purchases online before making a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store. And if Millennials care enough to research a restaurant or a pair of running shoes, it makes sense for law offices to put an increasing emphasis on their digital presence. Our research finds that 29% of Millennials prefer video content when exploring a brand, which is almost twice the number who turn to white papers (16%) or brochures (15%). And by creating a high-profile online presence, you are not only going to attract Millennials: a full 81% of all shoppers, regardless of age, research online before buying.

Machine Learning

Another trend for 2018 looks to be the continued advance of machine learning. The AI robots aren’t here to take over the world (yet), but there are already some productive ways for law offices to integrate artificial intelligence. One way is to use technology to augment low-value, repetitive work like preliminary research. Already, computers are ridiculously more efficient at extracting and sorting large amounts of information than human workers. Forbes reports that by using machine learning systems like LexisNexis DiscoveryIQ, the timeframe for legal research can be slashed by about 70%.

Firms are also using machine learning to provide self-service legal work. A great example is Legal Robot, a firm that uses machine learning to cut through the convoluted legalese of contracts. Their artificial intelligence provides users with a comprehensible, practical translation that identifies “the responsibilities, rights, and terms of an agreement.”

Deloitte is predicting the legal field will undergo a radical transformation by 2020, based around machine learning. They foresee an industry with less traditional lawyers and firms, but increased demand for elite, adaptable lawyers. It seems the change is inevitable, with 85% of law firms saying they believe technology replacing human workers is a permanent trend. Simply put, those who refuse to innovate through artificial intelligence will not survive the machine learning revolution.

Alternative Fee Agreements

The legal profession is one of the last fields to commonly use open hourly billing practices. But savvy consumers realize that this incentivizes inefficiency, and the trend is moving towards lower rates and more up-front, fixed payments. Over 96% of firms are already using some level of non-hourly billing, and 83% said they think that “more non-hourly billing will be a permanent trend going forward.”

This trend is driven by clients, especially corporate clients, seeking more transparent and predictable pricing. Alternative fee agreements, or AFAs, are one of the largest trends in the legal field, and most law firms feel AFAs will continue to grow. By providing up-front, results-oriented pricing, AFA’s offer clients greater value for their dollar and the confidence that the case will stay within budget. And AFAs don’t only benefit the client: Altman Weil reports that if done well, AFAs can be lucrative for law firms, too. Additionally, by releasing overworked lawyers from the grip of billable hours, firms can even hope to see increases in mental health and well-being.

Legal professionals will have to shed some long-standing practices and stereotypes to succeed in the coming years. As Millennials and Generation Zs become more prominent, law firms will have to show that they are not just money-making litigators, but reputable organizations that fight for justice and give back to society and the planet. Many jobs will be lost to machines, and firms need to start planning for the inevitable transition now. And in order to put cost-conscious corporations and individuals at ease, pricing and fees need to be increasingly transparent moving forward.

About Merit

Merit is the global leader in market invention. More often than not, our work carves out an entirely new market and transforms industry through research and strategy, communications, creative, and technology. For a company to succeed in the new era of marketing, it needs Merit.

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