Can Poor ‘Productization’ Stop Clients from Consuming Legal Services Digitally?

“When we outline precisely what a customer will get and at what price, we can market and sell this “product” many times. The customer is still receiving a service, now with the appealing predictability of an off-the-shelf product.”
-Neil Patel, NP Digital (New York Times bestselling author, Forbes top 10 marketer and Serial Entrepreneur)

Productization in legal services; one-to-one to off-the-shelf

Productizing legal services is a well-established concept in the legal profession, shifting from traditional one-to-one consultations to scalable, off-the-shelf offerings. This evolution has been fueled by the realization that relying solely on billable hours is an unsustainable business model for law firms aiming to expand. Legal professionals are increasingly exploring productization as a strategy to overcome scalability challenges and reach a broader audience.

Richard S. Granat's experience, spanning back to the launch of one of the first online law firms in 2003 ( ), illustrates the time and effort required for productized legal services to gain traction. Granat emphasizes the need for development and persistence, highlighting that success in this field is seldom instantaneous.  

In the contemporary legal landscape, numerous productized legal services have emerged, such as Cooleygo, offering total service for company formations, and well-known platforms like LegalZoom and DocuSign. However, the LegalTech field also bears witness to failures and skepticism, with a survey revealing that 77% of in-house lawyers had experienced unsuccessful technology implementations. This skepticism extends to both legal professionals and their clients, hindering the widespread adoption of digital legal services.

This raises the pivotal question: Can poor productization lead to low adoption?

Despite the undeniable importance of technology in the legal sector, achieving broad acceptance for digitalized legal services among clients remains a challenge. The intersection of legal practice and technological progress demands innovative strategies to overcome obstacles hindering the adoption of meticulously crafted legal products.

Not every task lends itself well to productization. For a digital product to generate consistent revenue, it must effectively address a recurring problem for its target customers, compelling them to see value in paying for it. This crucial aspect requires careful consideration and thorough research when devising a productization strategy.

Few factors to consider in a successful productization strategy

Productizations in the legal domain typically stem from service-oriented businesses owned by professionals with specialized vertical knowledge. For legal practitioners venturing into productization, it becomes essential to establish a framework resembling that of a standard product company. This structure should adeptly harness their vertical expertise to ensure the prosperity of the secondary productized endeavor. There are several factors that should be considered when formulating your productization strategy.  

Firstly, it is helpful to have a dedicated product team of not only technical professionals but also domain experts, ideally senior members from your own teams to continuously improve and align digital productization with the target market. A firm should always focus on a limited number of services that will draw from your organization’s unique specialized services. Making the deployment of the product simple, for example, having the product accessible via cloud can help in improving poor adaptation. It also helps to make sure that all stakeholders, including your own team and your clients, embrace the product with the correct attitude and process readiness. Choosing the right monetization model for the legal product requires careful consideration too, and despite its apparent simplicity, many legal professionals often struggle to opt for the most effective pricing strategy for their products. For a deep dive into how to productize and digitalize services to create predictable revenue, please read our separate article.

Insights and lessons for law firms

There is valuable insight to be gained from examining legal products that did not unfold as envisioned by their founders. Justin Kan’s hybrid legal software and law firm startup Atrium, built software for startups to navigate fundraising, hiring, acquisition deals and collaboration with their legal team. Atrium shut down their operations “after failing to figure out how to deliver better efficiency than a traditional law firm” (Kan). Many attributed the failure of Atrium to the decision to position itself as a fully digitalized firm offering a comprehensive range of legal services from the outset, rather than concentrating on a select few specialized services that could effectively be consumed as online legal services. The lack of clarity regarding Atrium's target audience added complexity to the situation, emphasizing the crucial need to clearly define your target audience.  

In conclusion, the success of digital legal services hinges on proper productization. A careful selection of services, a dedicated development team, and a focus on customer needs are paramount. By addressing these core concerns, law firms can ensure that their productized legal services align with the consumption behavior and needs of modern-day clients, mitigating challenges in adoption and fostering a successful integration of technology in the legal sector.