The sharing economy is transforming industry after industry over the past few decades. Also known as collaborative consumption or the peer economy, the term “sharing economy” first began to appear in the late 1990s and early 2000s as businesses such as eBay and Craigslist rose to prominence when they created a market for “underutilized assets,” also known as the junk in your garage you aren’t using anymore. More recently, marketplaces have developed which demonstrate the inherent efficiency of renting versus owning; for example, TaskRabbit, DogVacay, and the Lending Club.
According to The People Who Share, a site dedicated to this concept:
“The Sharing Economy is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human and physical resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations.”
One of the most popular recent examples of the shared economy is Uber, a mobile app-based transportation that allows everyday car owners to transform their vehicles into taxis. By cutting the costs to riders while empowering non-traditional taxi drivers to generate revenue from their otherwise unused assets, Uber has completely disrupted the way that people think about the taxi industry.
Similarly, AirBNB has begun to transform the hotel industry by allowing anyone who owns an apartment or a house to rent their place to travelers who are looking for an affordable alternative to hotels and/or desire a more unique place to stay when out of town.
However, all of these sharing economy websites and apps build on a legacy that companies such as LegalShield pioneered for decades before anyone had heard of Uber or AirBNB.
Founded over 40 years ago, LegalShield was the first company to harness the power of collaborative consumption to transform the way that people think about hiring and using an attorney. Now with over 1.4 million memberships covering 3.5 million people, LegalShield has fundamentally shifted the legal field in two powerful ways.
Changing the Way You Pay for a Lawyer
Each month, members pay as little as $29.95 to be part of the LegalShield community. In return for their membership, these consumers receive essentially unlimited access to some of the premier law firms in the country.
“Everyone grew up being intimidated by lawyers because, like the taxi model, the meter is always running. That created constant anxiety for consumers who wonder, ‘Are my lawyer’s interests aligned with mine?’ LegalShield disrupts that business model through ‘crowd sharing;’ we brought together the purchasing power of 3.5 million people in North America to collectively pay for the entire group, and when any individual member calls they are treated like the largest client at the firm,” says Jeff Bell, CEO of LegalShield. “The attorney has no clock, so the member has no anxiety. Both parties are aligned around the same objective.”
Changing the Way Lawyers Get Paid
Traditionally, lawyers are focused on maximizing their number of billable hours. While this is certainly not the case for every attorney, this model creates an incentive for lawyers to drag out their work and delay resolution of their clients’ cases; after all, if a case takes twice as long to close, they get to bill twice as much!
However, this has also created an environment in which attorneys are treated more like billing machines than as professionals. By providing its partner law firms with a set rate of monthly income, no matter how long they work on a matter, LegalShield flips this model on its head. The result is a situation in which lawyers are focused on resolving their client’s issues as quickly and effectively as possible, ensuring that their clients are happy.
“Some parts of the sharing economy are involved in a form of creative destruction; LegalShield has a disruptive but not a destructive business model. In fact, as we grow, we employ more and more lawyers, and our lawyers come to work happy because they enjoy the work that they do. They don’t have to worry about billable hours,” says Bell.