The WalMartization of Law Begins in Ontario


So, WalMart shoppers can now obtain $99 wills at four in-store kiosk locations in the Greater Toronto Area, with more to come:

Behind the plastic jugs of liquid Tide stacked near the entrance of a new Walmart in Markham is an innovation in discount retailing: Axess Law.

Founded by Toronto lawyers Lena Koke and Mark Morris, Axess Law provides fast and affordable legal services to time-pressed shoppers.

Simple wills are $99. Notarized documents are $25, plus $19 for each additional document.

This should come as no surprise to those of us who have been eyeing the tea leaves for some sense of where the future of the legal profession is headed.

Clearly, there has long been much room for the entrepreneurially-inclined among us to innovate and fill the gaps in the marketplace left by our traditional practise structures – and to do so extremely efficiently.

It may be tempting for some, but ultimately moot, to languish within a false debate as to whether this is about “access to justice” or mere “access to profit.”

Traditional Law may continue to scratch its collective, heavily weighed-down head, wondering how it can be possible that software and innovation can enable the delivery of low-cost, high-quality legal documentation to the public in mere minutes.

But TradLaw will likely do so at its peril, as a new legal order slowly emerges before our eyes.

The future is now – and it has been for quite some time.

Technology has commoditized many tasks traditionally accomplished by lawyers sweating over reams of paper for long, (over)billable hours.  We now have a new generation of tech-savvy, business-minded legal professionals among us whose strategic direction is firmly rooted in the future, not the past. Most engage in initiatives that are far less dramatic and press-worthy than the WalMart lawyers, but no less revolutionary.

So today’s Slaw Tip is build now, for tomorrow has already arrived:

  • Pay real attention to the innovations we are now seeing, online and in the brick and mortar world.  They are harbingers of the obvious future and they represent a new approach to the delivery of legal services that your firms must contend and compete with;
  • Identify processes in your firm that can be automated and streamlined and take steps to do so;
  • Source out experienced marketing professionals who have familiarity with the legal sector, and work with them to identify the processes and low-hanging fruit that may represent your firm’s next giant opportunity;
  • Investigate existing technologies, or consider building your own to permit your firm to do its work better and more cost-effectively. These innovators challenge us to improve.  We must rise to that challenge.

Developments like Walmart Law should never be seen as potentially crushing blows. They are intelligent efforts to service a specific, carefully-identified marketplace more directly, more conveniently, more cost-effectively and more efficiently.  And more profitably.

Shouldn’t we all be doing that?

 – Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

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