How to Productize Your Legal Expertise and Kill Billable Hours

I want to serve as many people as I can. But the cycle of billable hours is taking over my life?

Billable hours. The daily grind to meet your targets.

When you decided to become a lawyer, you wanted to share your legal expertise with the world. Make the law accessible for as many people as possible.

Now your work-life balance is off-kilter. You forget to feed your cat and water your plants because your career in the law has taken over your life.

The reality does not match your dream. You’re trading your time for dollars and burning out. Now you are feeling stuck. Where to from here?

I’ve been there. And escaped the billable hours by transitioning from legal services to legal products.

I am going to give you a road map for you to kill billable hours forever. Giving you flexibility, freedom, and reclaim your purpose for becoming a lawyer.

How? Innovating your legal processes. Understanding the real needs of your customers. Standardizing and streamlining your services so they are productized and can even be sold digitally online.

And your online legal products can make money for you while you sleep. Few people have heard of passive income for lawyers. It is possible.

So how do I kill my billable hours?

A career in the law without billable hours seems almost impossible. Such an ingrained tradition, it excludes many people from access to the law. It urges you to put a focus on maximizing your time and not on value. How to free yourself from this model?

Move from billable hours to legal products.

The answer is to productize your legal service. It is about taking your expertise and make it into a scalable product that may even run passively without you.

Productized service offers predictability for you and is easy to sell. It allows you to stop trading time for money and start pricing for the value you create.

For your customers, legal product offers a compelling value proposition with a clear scope and set price. It is easy to understand and buy.

We know many customers are not able to pay for our legal advice.

When they do, we often produce documents for them using pre-existing templates. Then we customize them for their particular situation.

If you practice in a particular area of the law, your client base will often have the same needs when it comes to legal documents. Clearly, others will be highly complex.

Think about the existing way you provide your legal services. Can you create a standardized document suitable for recurring customer issues? Streamline your service delivery process? Save your time, and thus transform your traditional business model from full service to an online business. Making it accessible to more people and addressing their needs.

Think about the template documents you use to create agreements and other documents for your clients. Forget about complex legal documents requiring extensive drafting.

What if you were to standardize some generic versions? And then put a price on that service? And make it available online? You would still complete the drafting and provide advice. But the service delivery is transformational. And no billable hours.

Even better, because you practice in a particular area, you already have a target market for your digital product.

 
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What is a legal product?

Legal products focus on one problem and it solves it well. You offer an exceptional customer experience and your customer knows what to expect and how it works. You use a standardized process to produce the service.

You can productize practically any legal service you are offering.

When I did this, I was focusing on Shareholder Agreements. I productized a shareholder agreement into a fixed-price product with a standardized process.

For you, it can be another agreement, document, or something completely different.

Will this process work for you?

To establish if productization is for you follow these steps.

1. FOCUS

  • First, you need to find a clear focus. Your legal product needs to focus on one service for one customer. Move away from doing everything for everyone.
  • Map out your customer needs through customer research. Understanding the exact need your customers have. What are the solutions they usually looking for? What are they already paying for? What are the questions that keep coming up? At this stage, the aim is to find the one service your customers are willing to pay for.

2. STANDARDISE

  • Unpack your current service process. Write a list of questions you ask from your customer in the first call. Document the steps you take to produce the service, for example, a document. Answer questions: what, how, when.
  • Look for repetitive elements. Think about the majority of your customers. Can a simple process with minimal customization serve their needs? The aim is to avoid customization where it is not providing value to the customer.
  • Create a questionnaire in plain English. It allows the customer to explain their needs and outcomes required. It should include items they should consider in case they have not given it thought. It is helpful also to include a guide to the document. It can help to explain the legal concepts, the purpose of each question, and how they were usually handled.
  • Create a standardized template for your product. Including some variable modules to suit different situations.

3. AUTOMATE

  • Once you have mastered stage one of your standardized product, it’s time to take it to the next level. With automation.
  • Automate part of the process and make it even more efficient. For example, by automating the document creation.
  • Hot tip! Incorporate a call or a short meeting to the product to reassure the customer the automated service is suitable for their needs. The promise of personal service, even if the call is short, builds trust, and reassures the customer about the service. This is the secret sauce between whether the customer purchases the service or not.

4. DOCUMENT

  • Create a service blueprint that describes your customer’s service journey step by step. And what you do behind the scenes process for each step. This service blueprint is the foundation of your productized business for yourself and for your team. Start with what you know. Later you can add more details and refine.
  • Write a killer value proposition for your customers. It explains the problem and how it solves your customer’s problem in a way they can understand easily.
  • Create sales copy with a compelling product description. Describe the problem your product solves, what the package includes, what are the benefits, and the price.
  • It is equally important to be clear about exclusions and where extra charges would be incurred.

Then you start selling. And improving step by step as you gain more experience in what works and what doesn’t.

The end result of the entire design process is a relatively predictable service product. Without the pressure of billable hours.

This is legal design in practice. How you design the legal process and the information in such a way it serves the customer in the best possible way. It empowers the customer to make decisions and how to implement them.

Legal innovation is empowering customers and giving more people access to the law. The traditional legal model of end to end service excludes more people than it serves.

Dare to challenge tailored lawyering

The key to productizing your legal expertise and selling it online is avoiding over customizing your product. You may have learned that as a lawyer you need to tailor your solution to each customer. (And this is still true in many situations).

I struggled with this when I first started. But it is true. Real legal innovation requires us to change the way we deliver our services. Delivery in a way that serves our customers and not us lawyers.

At the moment, the legal profession is an end to end service with full customization for each customer. It excludes access for many. And makes it very burdensome for you to produce. At the same time, some companies are offering free or low-cost legal templates (without legal advice) online.

So, customers have only two options – full legal customization or free or low-cost advice on Google (often of questionable origin).

There is an opportunity for you to find the customers who need the middle ground. A solution they are confident with and feel they receive value for money. Solutions provided online, produced by an accessible lawyer.

Think about your own legal practice. Where can you start to make your services, products, and products more digital? Start your journey into legal design by innovating the way you deliver your legal services. Streamline and productized your legal expertise.

Start small. Before you know it. Billable hours will be a thing of the past. You could be a lawyer making passive income while you sleep.

Oh, you can feed your cat and enjoy your personal life.

Image of Hannele Korhonen Legal Designer

Who’s writing?

Hi, I’m Hannele. I am an ex-corporate lawyer, legal designer, pioneer in legal tech, serial entrepreneur and blogger.  I am the founder and teacher in Lawyer’s Design School.

I’m here to teach you new skills and mindset of legal design to thrive in the future of law.

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