For middle-income individuals and families, the Internet has made it significantly easier to find a lawyer for family or estate planning purposes. But for the small firms that offer these services, the Internet has created a more competitive market and a need to stand out.
While firms can use their own websites and search engine optimization to their advantage, potential clients are also better equipped to find the best deal on legal services. And they have services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer available, which can take business from local general practitioners.
Law firm marketing consultant Micah Buchdahl said if he were a solo practitioner or small general practice, he might be concerned about the competition.
“It’s a much more crowded playing field,” Buchdahl said. “The question is if you live in Blue Bell, are you going to go out there and look for an attorney in Blue Bell … or are you just looking for the lowest cost option?”
Still, some attorneys see ample opportunity in serving middle-class clients.
Philadelphia firm Freiwald Law focuses primarily on litigation, and much of its work is done on a contingency fee basis. But over time, managing partner Aaron Freiwald said he began to notice that some clients could have used some help on transactional issues long before they came to him.
“I have had so many moments where I said, ‘I wish this client had a will, or help with getting a family member into a skilled nursing center, or help preparing a trust,'” Freiwald said. “I’ve seen it first-hand what happens when some of these vital legal services aren’t there.”
People at the lowest end of the income scale can often get help on legal issues for free, he said, and high-income families can easily pay a lawyer at an hourly rate. But in the middle, he said, there was “a huge, underserved population.”