The Small Business Squeeze

Technology is often cited as the game-changing factor in the future of the legal profession. There’s an endless parade of new devices, plus software is being developed that can do some of the work lawyers used to do. Legal entrepreneurs harness the power of the cloud to power new business models.

What it’s doing to the legal profession is just one side of the equation. For clients – actual and potential – rapidly changing technology can both expand their reach to consumers, and be a legal minefield.

People who conduct any part of their business over the internet, for example, will have to start stepping carefully once the federal government brings its controversial anti-spam law into force some time next year.

“Don’t be fooled by its name. You don’t need to be a spammer, or even be located in Canada, for legislation known as ‘Canada’s anti-spam law’ or ‘CASL’ to regulate important elements of your business,” Osler warns its clients on its website.

“Many everyday activities – such as sending an email message to a customer, operating a company website and making a mobile application available for download – will soon be subject to new, detailed rules that will likely require you to make significant changes to your operational practices or face significant fines.”

That means one thing for big companies, charities or other organizations with teams of lawyers to help them navigate. But small businesses, which may rely on the internet for survival, could collapse under the pressure of the tougher regulatory environment, and the increases in legal fees that accompany it.

“One of the client communities most badly affected by increased legal services costs is the small business sector,” writes one observer on the CBA Legal Futures website. “Unlike the ‘mom & pop’ small business types of 50 years ago, many sole proprietors or small start-ups need access to very sophisticated legal advice on matters such as intellectual property and international commercial transactions.”

Once again the legal futures conversation comes down to the clients. How will it be possible to provide the complex services they need at a price all can live with?

Retweet information »

Comments

  1. I was surprised by this post from CBA Futures. Speaking about technological change, the author wrote: “What it’s doing to the legal profession is just one side of the equation. For clients […] [“it”] rapidly changing technology can […] be a legal minefield”.
    Looking at the first side of the “equation”, changes brought by technology in the legal profession have been very gradual. Sure, for the last twenty years gurus of all kinds have announced a big change coming in the legal profession. No such thing happened. Instead we saw a slow adaptation to new information technologies. And, as in every field, some were better at it than others. Let’s turn to the other “side of the equation”, clients and legal minefield.
    For clients, according to the post, “rapidly changing technology can both expand their reach to consumers, and be a legal minefield”. Some substance is given in this respect: “Many everyday activities – such as sending an email message to a customer, operating a company website and making a mobile application available for download – will soon be subject to new, detailed rules that will likely require you to make significant changes to your operational practices or face significant fines.” Wow, significant fines for sending an email to a customer!
    That “scaring them off” selling strategy will never work. May I suggest CBA people to pay a look to ‘NO’ (by P. Larraín) a marketing campaign that starts a revolution .
    Legal sector will thrive if the economic activity prospers. Opportunities for lawyers will not come from scaring off the people of getting involved in business activities but from helping and encouraging them to dare business ventures.
    When starting a business, one has to figure a lot of things: how to negotiate a commercial rent, how to keep the books, how to set up the payroll, how to define markets and products, how to set up a web site. He also needs many types of contracts, etc. The opportunity for lawyers is to help motivated entrepreneurs to solve some of those issues as they come. If lawyers try to scare them with risks of “significant fines for sending an email to a customer”, entrepreneurs will turn to their accountant with their questions.