The legal industry changed me more than I ever thought it would. I’m in a unique position in the legal industry. Instead of working with one law firm, I get to work with 20 of them.
I get to see inside and learn how they operate. I always keep this information confidential.
But it has helped me form an opinion of the legal industry that most wouldn’t believe.
I joined the legal industry in 2015, and it’s had the most profound change on my life.
That is saying a lot, as I was in the army for seven years, went through boot camp as a seventeen-year-old, and even got shot by a 5.56mm bullet.
You would think that getting shot would be more life-changing than dealing with lawyers, but that wasn’t the case.
Take risks and push boundaries
Getting shot made me appreciate life, and I wanted to take risks and push boundaries. It made me not want to waste the time I have.
The legal industry did the exact opposite. Speaking with attorneys makes you not want to try anything innovative at all.
Risk should be avoided at all costs. I have had to fight hard against what I have learned in the legal market.
I have always wanted to be a successful entrepreneur. For me, the definition of a successful entrepreneur is a company valued at over 100M.
For the first few years, I was able to play it off. I just reminded myself that most attorneys deal with problems.
If you are in court all the time dealing with problems, it makes sense that you would be risk-averse.
If your clients are always being sued and suing others because of real estate development projects, would you want to get involved in development?
The Legal Industry Changed Me
But eventually, it starts to wear on you. It seems that every time I try to do something creative in the legal market, there is non stop fighting against it.
The attorneys don’t even do a pro-con analysis, the way you are meant to in business.
If a lawyer doesn’t understand something, they assume it’s bad. Instead of taking the time to understand it, they decide to fight it.
Many legal tech companies get out of the market for this reason. Ross AI is one example.
But there are success stories as well. Clio is now valued at over $2B. But they had to fight hard against the Law Society to succeed.
Avvo is another success story that had to fight harder than it should have.
At the end of this article, I could have made a call for attorneys to be more open to innovation.
But I’m not going to waste my words. They won’t change.
How Technology Will Improve The Legal Industry
What does technology have to do with the ability of someone to find a lawyer? How does it have an impact on lawyers being accountable to their clients?
If lawyers get reviewed online, they will care more about customer service. This will solve the access to justice issue.
In this article, we will explore how to build a better legal system using technology.
In particular, how can the public learn to trust law firms? How can they tell the good lawyers from the not-so-good ones?
How Many Lawyers Are There In Canada?
There are 130,000 lawyers in Canada. Therefore, there is no shortage of ways for the public to get legal advice.
And yet, in some courts in Canada, only 30% of people have a lawyer represent them during hearings and trials.
Why is that?
For some people, it’s because they can’t afford $5000. But not for everyone.
The average Canadian spends the following amounts of money
StatsCan says that the average Canadian household spent $1,311, or about 1.5% of their total annual expenditure, on personal care in 2016. (update wording)
According to StatsCan, $1,406 was the amount the average Canadian household spent on tobacco-related products and alcoholic beverages in 2016. (update wording)
So if the average Canadian can afford to spend over $1000 each year on those non-essential items, then I believe that many of the 70% of people that don’t hire a lawyer for a hearing could afford it.
They just don’t want to.
My company, ClearWay Law, receives emails from hundreds of people across Canada per day. We even have a new website that connects people to lawyers in China.
This has given me a unique insight into the concerns that many Canadians have about choosing a lawyer.
Photo: Top judges in Canada are making access to justice and making it easier to hire a lawyer a priority.
According to all the emails I have seen, below are the reasons why the public doesn’t hire a lawyer
- They don’t trust the lawyer to accurately count their hours
- The person doesn’t think their legal issue is serious enough to hire a law firm
- They assume the judge is going to instantly side with them, and therefore they don’t need a lawyer to complicate things
- They don’t know what kind of lawyer to hire, and it’s too much work to look into it
Each one of these issues warrants its own article. But the main point is that there is a disconnect between the person with the legal problem and the lawyers.
And this is a shame. Let’s say someone has been unfairly fired from their job in Vancouver. But they don’t trust law firms.
They will either not pursue a claim for being fired unfairly, or they will try their best on their own.
And if the company that fired them hires an employment lawyer in Vancouver, then the company will have a significant advantage during the hearings and trial.
This isn’t because the person can’t read the Employment Act (look into it.) It’s because the employment lawyer knows how to present evidence to the judge.
The lawyer will know the procedures, and will always be many steps ahead.
Outside of fighting in court, it will also weaken the chances of settlement for the person who was fired.
The Legal Industry Changed Me
If the company is up against someone who is self-represented, then they will be less likely to settle.
If the company was up against a large employment law firm, they might be worried about going to trial.
Access to justice won’t be solved by increasing the number of lawyers in Canada. It also won’t be solved by encouraging lawyers to work for free or for cheap.
Instead, the access to justice problem will be solved by the public knowing which lawyer to choose and trusting that lawyer completely.
If someone can come up with $50,000 (and many Canadians can), they might be able to start litigation against someone who wronged them.
If they spend $50K on a lawyer, and they end up getting $200K back, then the lawsuit made sense.
But if they choose the wrong lawyer, spent $50K, and got nothing back, then it was a terrible waste of money.
The legal industry changed me in that it made me become more analytical.
Lawyer Marketing- Showing off Good Ratings
This is why Clearway Law created a lawyer directory with lawyer ratings. The idea is that the public can leave 1-5 star reviews for lawyers they work with.
Over time, as more reviews are left for Canadian lawyers, then good lawyers will be separated from not-so-good lawyers.
Lawyers who get 5-star reviews from a third-party source will be able to market their 5-star rating to the public.
Lawyers who keep getting 1 or 2-star reviews will have a very hard time with lawyer marketing.
If a lawyer with bad ratings starts promoting their firm on Google Ads or Facebook Ads, people will check their rating on ClearWay Law.
When the public sees their terrible ratings, they will look for a better lawyer.
Lawyers with good ratings will get most of the clients, and bad lawyers will be pushed out of the legal industry.
Marketing and lawyer ratings will be how to solve the access to justice problem.
The legal industry changed me, how about you?
Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law, a directory for lawyers in Canada and China. He wants to separate the good lawyers from the bad ones and sees this as his life mission.