“There’s no legal practice that can’t be sold as a subscription.”
That’s what Dan Lear (of RightBrainLaw) posted to Twitter this week.
I responded with some tweet-sized observations, which you can read in this thread.
At first, I opined that there some legal services that can’t be sold as a subscription.
But then I asked…
Now let me ask: are we selling “subscriptions” that have no fixed end date? Or are we selling a “payment plan” for defined services (i.e. flat fee but with installments)?
The reason I asked that question is that I’ve been seeing (on Twitter mostly) a lot of semi-delusional happy talk about the idea of lawyers selling subscription services.
But no one seems to define how that works in terms of the “deliverables” to the client and whether there is an endpoint to the payments (i.e. the “subscription”)
For example, I see divorce lawyers saying they sell subscription services.
Which begs the obvious question: do they get divorcing people to agree to pay x dollars per month, without any fixed end date? And for what services exactly?
But back to the initial question
The answer to Dan Lear’s question is “there are definitely some legal services that cannot be sold as a subscription.” (See below)
So, yeah, you can’t sell legal services as a subscription if it’s illegal.
Womp, womp, womp…
But, wait, there is good news if you are interested in selling non-illegal subscription services.
I know it’s possible for lawyers to sell subscription-based legal services.
I know lawyers who are doing it.
But, I also know what it took for them to ramp up to that level.
I know because I’ve had to learn to ramp up to that level myself. And I’ve talked to lawyers who’ve done it and I know what they learned in the process.
Bottom line: it ain’t easy.
So, if you want to do try doing it, here’s an important tip.
If you’re thinking you can jump into selling subscription services without ever having figured out how to do flat-fee pricing, think again.
If you can’t figure out flat-fee pricing and then try to jump right into subscription pricing, you’ll crash and burn for sure.
Look, I’m happy that more lawyers are starting to try to be innovative and entrepreneurial. This is good for them and good for the legal profession (in the long run).
I’m all for innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.
I’ve spent the last twenty-plus years trying to innovate and build an entrepreneurial business. I’ve been in the trenches, and I get it.
But here’s the thing I feel like is missing from euphoric tweeting with the #legaltech hashtag…
We need to be realistic in how we seek to innovate.
I don’t know how many lawyers who are trying to sell subscription services have done serious research into how it’s done in other businesses, but I have.
I’ve done a LOT research for many years (which is how I finally learned how to create and sell subscription-based stuff)
And when I say I did a lot of research I mean…
As in, spending tens of thousands of dollars in research.
As in, joining mastermind groups run by people who’ve made millions of dollars selling stuff online (some who have even sold a million dollars worth of stuff in one single day).
And, you know what those folks all say when they’re huddled together in a small room talking about the brutal reality of selling subscription services?
They say “it’s fucking hard.”
Sorry if that’s offensive, but I want to give you the direct, literal quote.
Why is it so hard?
Well, think about it for a minute.
You’re trying to sell intangible stuff (services or “information products”) that you’re promising to provide in the future.
So… you need to describe very clearly what those intangible goodies will be. And you need to do so in a tantalizing way that makes people crave those goodies.
(by the way, this is called “marketing,” and it’s not something that most lawyers are good at, even at a basic level).
So all that makes it hard. But, what makes it even harder is this…
Most people are increasingly wary of signing up for ANY kind of subscription service.
Most people now have “subscription fatigue.” You know what I’m talking about, right?
In fact, most people are looking to cut their subscriptions, not add to them.
That’s why so many people have been cutting the cord on their cable TV subscriptions.
And, so now in the midst of this global trend, what are we lawyers going to do?
We’re going to bop on over to the Internet and say “hey wanna buy my legal services as a subscription?”
You do see the depth of the challenge here, right?
Again, I’m sorry to be brutally honest (but that’s one of my core values).
Keep your chin up
Look, don’t get discouraged if you want to innovate your law practice or start trying “entrepreneurial” things…
I’m NOT saying you can’t make massive changes to your law practice. In fact, I believe it’s quite the opposite.
You can make extraordinary changes in how you practice law.
But you need to go about making those changes in a steady, sensible way.
P.S. If you want a practice optimized for remote work & virtual collaboration, get this 24-page guide.