This is a guest post from LegalShield CEO Jeff Bell. 

In May 2017, I spoke for LegalShield on the State of the Industry panel at the Group Legal Services Association (GLSA) annual meeting. The panel brought together LegalShield competitors ARAG and Hyatt plus Avvo, LegalZoom, and Rocket Lawyer, the latter three being platforms rather than traditional group legal plans. Although reinventing the law with technology remains important, I believe it’s mission critical to educate citizens about how to solve their legal problems. At some point, we all need legal help and I believe that the solution to access to justice exists in our plan offerings.
Each panelist spent time talking about their perspectives on how legal plans help members and lawyers, including discussions on business models and offerings. While lawyers were our audience at the conference, I believe we must also focus on the citizen who needs legal services. Below are three critical areas that require focus to bridge the access to justice gap.

Education

I believe that our society has erroneously taught all of us, from the time we were children, to fear lawyers and the law. We have all heard: lawyers are expensive; unresponsive; and not accountable. Or that lawyers speak their own language and patronize the common citizen.
Rather than spending an excessive amount on advertising legal services, citizens need education on what and when legal help is required. It’s obvious that you should ask for a lawyer if you face a criminal charge, but how does the average citizen know when and why to draft a will? Or having your lease reviewed before you sign it can save you headaches later? Or to set up a business for your new idea? Not everyone does not know when they need a lawyer. There are two ways to address this gap. First, we need a WebMD or MayoClinic.com for the law, and maybe more than one. Those sites did not end doctors, but they do make patients feel more informed and confident when they visit their doctor. We need the same free education for legal services. Second, we need free legal checkups powered by technology to identify the risk of not seeking legal advice.

Relationships

Life is a journey and along the way, law happens. Delivering legal services is a business and should not be based on a “one and done” or a transactional approach. We encourage our members to use their plan and that should be the model for the industry. Plans work best when the citizen has an ongoing relationship with a law firm and therefore does not hesitate to reach out for help.
To that end, measurement of the citizen’s experience using customer satisfaction and/or a net promoter score (NPS) is critical to quality and continuous improvement. We diligently monitor and follow-up on our members’ NPS ratings for provider law firms and every lawyer therein. Transparency around service levels, NPS scores, and quality is the norm outside the legal business and we must bring this to the law. Ratings or stars that are bought with advertising or based upon peer reviews are not the same as true client feedback. We use only the voice of the real customer.

Technology

We are aggressively pursuing technology, such as chatbots, to answer common legal questions but not to replace lawyers. Providing free forms is also key. For more complex documents, we provide simple to follow questionnaires for things like wills, prenuptials, contested divorce, personal bankruptcy and personal injury to help educate citizens and streamline the intake process for our firms. We do all of this from our mobile app.

LegalShield is a 45-year-old startup in the sense that we are continuously revisiting and changing our model based on our customers and lawyer needs. We will not stop improving the citizen experience with technology and strive to have both satisfied citizens and lawyers.
In addition to education, relationships, and technology, we believe in the following for our members and lawyers:
Done for you by a law firm. Our customers do not need to know the inner workings of the legal services plan other than understand our commitment to put the law firm in the palm of your hand through our mobile application and our member bill of rights commitment.
Lawyers should lawyer. Marketers should market and so on. Other professions outsource their administrative functions, including marketing to professionals. We encourage lawyers to let us market and manage the details to free them up to practice law. Like free legal checkups, lawyers will have free profiles on the LegalShield site that they own and control. No fees. No advertising.
Obsession with Engagement. We have moved away from the model where we sell a plan and hope that it’s never used, or the breakage model. We will provide education and free forms for our members so that all citizens can engage easily and regularly live free of worry about legal assistance.

As a leader in the group legal services market, I hope we can bring the wisdom of our panel to educate lawyers and citizens alike on the power of the group legal plan around the country. Although we are competitors, the under-served citizens will benefit from a collaborative campaign by the plans to educate and build relationships. We hope to see you in New Orleans at GLSA’s spring meeting and also at Elevate by LegalShield in June 2018.

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