It’s not like our society is getting less bureaucratic, less litigious, less in need of legal guidance. And indeed, as Professor Bill Henderson’s number-crunching shows, the spend on business and government legal services went up nearly 20% in the 5 year period between 2007 and 2012.
But consumer spending over that time? It went DOWN by over 10%.
That’s awful. It’s awful for the lawyers who could be more gainfully employed, but it’s really awful for the public. Their legal needs haven’t shrunk by 10%; they’re just choosing to do without legal assistance.
These numbers represent a collective action failure on the part of lawyers, regulators, and legal trade associations. Our industry has carved out a rigid monopoly in providing legal services, but it has clung for far too long to a single way of doing business.
Consumers in 2017 expect transparency, predictability, information, and control when making purchases. Instead, we give them opaque, uncertain, “full scope” representation as the only option. And forget about innovations like ease of purchase, satisfaction guarantees, or non-lawyers providing some routine legal services.
The practice of law isn’t going to shrink its way to relevance in people’s lives. These numbers should be a wake-up call that we need to get serious – about regulatory reform, about embracing innovation, about the extent of the legal monopoly – if we’re going to stave off this escalating crisis in consumer access to justice.