Let’s face it: the events of 2020 have changed our lives in a profound way and we can never go back to the way life was before. A few months ago, many didn’t think they would have to wear a mask to visit the corner store. I certainly didn’t think I would be teleconferencing with my colleagues instead of having an informal discussion over a coffee, or that such a tiny virus would make such a massive impact on the global economy. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and as developing countries are only at the beginning or middle of the curve, we in so-called “developed” countries are still reeling from the effects; taking stock and taking notes on the lessons we’ve learned in the hopes of doing better.

For example, as we look back at the past few months, we realize some industries like restaurants and traditional brick-and-mortar stores found a way to survive—even thrive—through online sales. Marketplaces of all sorts are dominating the new economy.

For us, lawyers, and those who need us, life also has to go on. We have to continue to serve our clients. I see it myself in the legal profession, which has undergone a transformation as colleagues found creative ways to shift a library of law references and an agenda of client visits to a virtual space, never stopping their day-to-day business of law practice. However, the concept of a true “legal shop”, the marketplace for legal services with extended options is what the legal industry has been truly lacking until now.

The market for legal services may be intimidating: dominated by big law firms and often unfriendly to young professionals with less than 10 years under their belt. Yet, looking at the “positive” effects of months of learning to work in a more virtual environment, this time has helped many realize that the market itself needs to change. In fact, it IS changing. Perhaps these few months helped us realize that in order to survive, smart lawyers need to change with it.

For anyone not working for a massive law firm, this may mean that we must continue to serve a population that often does not have access to a full-on internal legal team.

In fact, according to a recent study by the UK Legal Services Board (2018), more than 90% of SMEs lack an internal legal service and at least 1/3 of them have a legal problem that requires hiring a lawyer during a given year. Excluding India and China (which are markets of massive scale but with stringent entry barriers), 80 mln of SMEs around the world are in such a position.

The great news is that 4 mln lawyers around the world are available to serve SMEs’ legal needs. Unfortunately, though, the majority of them work solo or for small legal teams, and struggle to find clients and projects due to the current market structure dominated by large law firms.

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SMEs also struggle with their own needs, often not even sure of the kind of legal help they need, worried about excessive legal fees, and unsure they will get the quality of services to match what they are paying.

This is where the truly disruptive nature of the global crisis we just experienced comes to light: even traditional services, like restaurants or in our case the legal profession, can adapt.

Call it Darwinism, disruption or just plain life. The market evolves. Those who evolve with it will survive. Those who remain in the traditional model may not make it through the next global crisis.

We have learned that the world is ready for a more virtual marketplace for all types of goods and services; one that is inclusive of smaller players, of tailored needs, and one that can be safe. Bringing legal services to the online world in a completely secure platform entails not just setting up an online shop and selling “law” from there, whatever that means. It involves vetting those offering their services and those paying for them. It includes services needed for specific countries and markets, but also allows companies to seek original out-of-the-box solutions to their legal needs. It is more than just a ‘Yellow Pages’ of lawyers, but connects lawyers who want to spread their wings with the companies, their prospective clients, too often the little guys, who want quality services at an affordable rate.

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Furthermore, spaces like this can open up all types of interesting cross-border collaborations. A patent lawyer based in Switzerland can team up with a biologist in Canada and a legal marketing specialist based in South Africa, to promote and deliver patent registration services to start-ups based in the European Union. These global value chains are currently inexistent in the legal industry. Why shouldn’t there be a platform where an expat lawyer in the US who has moved to support his wife’s career, but who only has the license to practice law in a few jurisdictions, can utilize his skills and license remotely?

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If we continue to look at the positive side of the COVID-19 crisis, at the middle of 2020, we can do like the cliché goes: strike while the iron is hot: create THE Legal Marketplace. Take advantage of the logical shift in the dynamic of the way business is run, and make a win-win situation for lawyers and their customers.

We may never be able to go back to the way life was before, but honestly, there has never been a better time to look forward to what’s next.

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