Posted by Nigel Wallis, partner at Legal Futures Associate O’Connors LLP
“You have to learn the rules of the game and then play better than anyone else.” Albert Einstein
A few months ago Google added car insurance to its ‘Google Compare’ suite of products, products which Google says are designed to help people make confident and more informed financial decisions. Did those in the insurance industry see this coming? Probably. Can they do much about it? Probably not. Are they worried by it? I should say so.
So I pose this question. What if Google decided to launch a full range consumer legal services business in the UK tomorrow? Presumably the venture would be an alternative business structure owned by Google. It would only need to employ one lawyer as all the legal work it attracts could be outsourced to other law firms. And I can’t imagine there would be a shortage of law firms willing to pay for panel slots or leads, subject to any referral fee ban issues of course.
It would have little difficulty generating enquiries. After all, consumers tend to look for free advice before they resort to paying for anything. Between its search engine and its video platform, YouTube, the interface is already in place and it has tons of data about its audience. The chances are Google knows more about us than our best friends and certainly more than any current law firm.
Those who refuse to play ball with Google would no doubt withdraw advertising spend but it would be a brave firm that picks a fight with the world’s leading search engine. A famous crime novelist was once asked where she thought was the perfect place to hide a body. Her answer: “On page 2 of Google.”
And what if Google teamed up with IBM to deliver initial legal advice backed by IBM’s artificial intelligence engine, Watson? A service delivered by ever-fresh-faced avatars in any chosen language at any time of the day or night and completely free. Many would scoff at the idea but a few consumers I know would find the proposition quite alluring.
There’s an old adage that says a good leader should work out what a competitor could do to wipe out his or her business and then do it before the competitor does. After all, ‘excuse me, but where have all our clients gone?’ is not the most comfortable question to be fielding at a team meeting.
So how would you lead your law firm in responding to such a threat? Leave a comment below and there are a few bottles put aside for the most inventive ones. I found this excellent wine merchant on Google.
Kyla Moran from IBM Watson will be speaking at next month’s Legal Futures innovation conference, From ABS to AI. Click here for full details.