hether you’re a law firm owner or employed by a law firm, chances are your law firm is not capitalising on its most valuable assets. Most of the assets in your law firm are intangible – that’s intellectual property. As lawyers, we have created so much IP over the years but we’re not capitalising on it. You owe it to yourself and your firm’s stakeholders (your family, employees, employers, business partners, clients and community) to discover and monetise your IP.What is IP?This might seem like a silly thing to explain to a bunch of lawyers but let’s cover it off quickly anyway so we’re all on the same page. Intellectual property is creations of the mind. Lawyers and law firms generally have 3 types of IP:
1. Copyright: us lawyers generally like to write, and our original written work we have spent many hours crafting like precedents, workflows, articles and guides is generally protected by copyright law.
2. Trade secrets: any confidential business information such as methods, programs, processes or strategies that give each business its competitive edge in the market.
3. Trademarks: your law firm’s name and brand are very powerful, and it’s often why clients purchase from you. Many law firms will have their name and logo trademarked.
What do you mean by ‘capitalising on your IP’?
When you capitalise on your intellectual property (or monetise it) you use it to make you money. You’re probably thinking that you already do this – you use your precedents or Word templates when providing legal services to clients. This is a good example of using your intellectual property to make you money. But what if you took that a step further and harnessed technology to use your IP to create a product that could be sold over and over again to new and existing customers without much extra effort? Turning your IP into products that can be sold online to your current client base and beyond is easy enough to do in the digital age.
Why should lawyers capitalise on their IP?
Capitalising on your intellectual property will help you to change your life and your law firm in the following ways:
1. You’ll stay ahead of the wave of change about to hit our industry. Change is coming in a big way whether you like it or not. In fact, it’s already happening. By taking stock of your firm’s intellectual property and finding ways using technology to monetise that IP, you are putting your law firm in a strong position to stay ahead of the curve. This could be the difference between whether or not you still have a law firm in 10 – 20 years’ time.
2. You’ll have more time to do what matters most. We all know the saying “time is money”. As service professionals our revenue is directly related to the time we spend working. So the more time you spend serving your clients the more money you make. Lawyers are well-known for working long hours. This is often at the expense of their personal relationships, health and happiness. When you capitalise on your IP, it continues to make money for you long after you’ve done the work. This means more time to spend on whatever floats your boat: hitting Mitre 10 Mega first thing on Saturday morning to spend the weekend doing DIY, training for the half-marathon, doing more meaningful and high value legal work for clients who inspire you, doing school pickups, doing voluntary work, etc – you get the drift.
3. You’ll have more money in the bank. Turning your IP into products means no more cashflow issues. Your products are paid for upfront or at regular intervals so no more chasing debtors. If you want to sell more products and make more money, you can increase your spend on your proven online advertising and marketing channels.
4. You’ll have more impact. By creating great products you can let your IP speak for you. This could lead to important opportunities for you and your firm like more customers, attracting better quality staff, book deals, media appearances, speaking gigs at conferences and other events, strategic partnership and joint venture opportunities, etc.
What are some examples?
There aren’t many law firms in New Zealand capitalising on their IP yet. But there will be very soon. More and more lawyers are becoming dissatisfied with the traditional law firm model. These lawyers know that the wave of change hitting our industry means it’s more important than ever before to use technology to stay ahead. Here’s a couple of examples of Kiwi firms using technology and capitalising on their IP:
Simmonds Stewart: this NZ law firm is a good Kiwi example of a law firm capitalising on its IP. Simmonds Stewart is a firm of specialist technology lawyers well-known for their easy-to-use templates they provide for free on their website to entrepreneurs and businesses. Simmonds Stewart use their templates as a lead magnet to build their mailing list so they can regularly communicate with and provide a tonne of value to their target market. Then when these entrepreneurs and businesses need a lawyer, they tend to use Simmonds Stewart. Simmonds Stewart also sells their templates to other lawyers for a per document fee. Simmonds Stewart has cleverly used this process of offering free templates on their website to help them build up their client base in Singapore where they now have an office.
Legal Beagle: this is the online brand of my own law firm Dennis King Law. We’ve been selling legal services to clients all over NZ and overseas via our snazzy online dashboard since 2012. We’ve built our customer base purely through social media and digital marketing. In just the last few months we’ve been selling automated online legal docs to businesses and consumers. Our customers buy legal documents on our website, and the way these documents are created is our customers answer an online interview and at the end of the interview our software instantly creates a customised legal documents for them. I was inspired by the way companies like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom in the US have turned everyday legal documents into products that can be sold over and over again without much extra effort.
Ready to dip your toe in and find out how you can capitalise on your IP?
Check out our free guide How To Discover And Monetise The Hidden Value In Your Law Firm. This comes with a handy checklist for carrying out an intellectual property stocktake in your law firm.