Woodland hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg was interviewed by the San Fernando Business Journal regarding the giant story about the Glendale located LegalZoom’s IPO and subsequent $7.3 billion valuation. Although the IPO and valuation is a big story in and of itself. Barry P. Goldberg asked if the colossal strength of this “para-legal” organization is likely to impact small and solo law firms going forward. In the July 5, 2021 edition of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, you can read his response. In short, “Hey small and solo law firms— Act now to keep your clients later!”
As stated in the SFVBJ:
“The emergence of LegalZoom and other companies that provide online legal service represents a threat to the traditional law firm.
Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry Goldberg, a former president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association in Woodland Hills, has kept track of LegalZoom since its early days.
‘Whether you see it as a threat or not, it absolutely positively is,’ he said. ‘If you track what LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer and some others are doing, you can almost track the demise of the solo and small law firm.’
Goldberg’s outlook comes from two looming developments in the legal industry that he says would act as a boon to LegalZoom and companies like it; Nonlawyer ownership of law firms and the licensing of paraprofessionals to provide services usually offered by attorneys.
The California Paraprofessional Program Working Group, a committee under the State Bar of California, sees the licensing of paraprofessionals as a means of closing the justice gap and providing services at a lower cost than attorneys. The working group is currently examining what legal services and areas of practice paraprofessionals could take on through licensing.
‘In other words, if you’re not a lawyer, you can be a lawyer. That’s huge for (companies) like LegalZoom.’ Goldberg said.
California would be following similar footsteps such as Utah and Arizona if it enacted the nonlawyer ownership of law firms.
‘People are simply going to hire LegalZoom and other big companies to handle their real estate case, family law case, their personal injury case, their estate and trust case. And they will probably be paying less for it.’ Goldberg explained.
Goldberg added that although LegalZoom won’t have the traditional lawyer-client relationship, it may still be able to deliver a high-quality product.
. . .
Goldberg noted the possibility of accounting firms being able to own law firms in the future as another development that could transform the industry.
Goldberg explained that adaption is going to be critical; for legal professionals as technology continues to change the fabric of the industry.
‘Not only do we have to see the change and embrace the change, but we have to distinguish ourselves,’ he said. ‘Number one with niche areas of law and number two, with the traditional attorney-client relationship.’
Lawyers not taking these steps, Goldberg added, will be the first ones to lose clients.”
As a clarification, not included in the article, is that small law firms and solo lawyers must be willing to add paraprofessionals to keep costs competitive and they must solidify the personal trusted relationships that can not be forged by a click of the mouse. Moreover, Barry P. Goldberg is against the licensing of paraprofessionals and of allowing non-lawyers to own law firms. As a member of the San Fernando Bar Association, he is working to officially oppose these developments.