On February 7, 2013, LegalForce opened up a three-level retail store called BookFlip, in Palo Alto, California, that sells books, holds classes and connects customers with attorneys for legal advice.
As explained by Pandodaily, LegalForce is composed of a traditional law practice and a legal website that is a “law automation software tech company” that provides a web service to help users register trademarks online, among other things.
With the addition of the bookstore, which seems to be set up similar to an Apple/Indigo/Starbucks store, people come to read books, obtain legal advice, lounge and learn all sorts of things through classroom training sessions on such topics as entrepreneurship, business and law.
The patrons are not solicited by lawyers, but lawyers are present if ever customers want their services. BookFlip provides seven-day retail access to licensed U.S. attorneys without appointments on a wide range of personal and business legal topics.
The idea is to build a community of people who will engage in legal advice in a new way, [company founder and CEO Raj Abhyanker] says. The bookstore sells law and general titles, and sells tablets as well. Visitors can read books or take a class. Example courses: Pinterest for seniors, Starting Your Business on Etsy, and How to File a Patent. Some are sponsored by companies, and some are paid classes. And when you’re ready to buy a book, you are rung up by a law “concierge,” as Abhyanker calls them, aka ambitious youngsters with designs on law school. The company populates the bookshelves by working with Ingram Content Group, a distributor that many of the major book chains use.
While the bookstore is intended to offer value all on its own, it is essentially a vehicle to introduce clients to lawyers. “This is all a lure to get visitors into the area of the store where lawyers work on call, waiting for walk-ins and charging $45 per 15 minutes.” According to Abhyanker: “The vast amount of people who come in aren’t looking for legal advice… But we build a relationship with them. And we’re here when they need us.”
We want people to realize that lawyers, like doctors, can provide help throughout various stages of life… Few people know where to turn for legal help. We solve this by letting the public walk into a major retail location for help. This makes obtaining legal assistance easy, convenient and affordable.
Abhyanker already has plans to expand LegalForce’s new brand of legal services across the nation by forming partnerships with existing bookstores across the country and attracting other law firms to join their initiative.
Abhyanker may be right that there is a disconnect between people, entrepreneurs and lawyers. Will an inviting, casual and social space help bridge that gap? This type of initiative has become increasingly common. Apple’s stores are like hangouts, where people can surf the web (if they can find a free station) and take workshops, but customers can also book a paid appointment with Apple’s tech support. Indigo/Chapters and Starbucks let customers spend as much time in store as they want to encourage them to keep purchasing stuff. Will the same strategy work for legal services?