On Platform-Based Legal Services - An Overview

by Geroe Ezeah B. Valencia · May 23, 2021

Introduction

The practice of law in the Philippines is one of the more highly regarded professions in the country. The law indubitably pervades the lives of all people and this accounts for the respect that is attributed by the common man to lawyers. This social privilege that is afforded to lawyers come with a correlative positive duty on them. Under the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, it is a declared policy that lawyers, in upholding the professional standards and ethics of the profession, are bound to provide legal services to all in need of them. However, while good on paper, this is far from the lived reality of many Filipinos. 

The Current State of Legal Services in the Country - a snapshot 

Globally, the legal service market is valued at $728.5 billion with the Philippine market worth around $720 million in 2020. Further, the market for legal services is even projected to recover and reach 767 billion dollars after the slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the Philippines, the majority of private practitioners in the country can be found in the “traditional” law firms with a small portion of lawyers engaged in either solo practice, usually as in-house counsels, or are employed by the government. This situation creates a major consumer-provider gap between lawyers and clients. Many Filipinos, particularly OFWs, PWDs, and the average Pinoy, perceive availing of legal services a luxury that they simply cannot afford. With a population of almost 110 million Filipinos, the World Justice Project says that around 35% of these experience legal problems that are already justiciable and actionable. Breaking down this figure further, merely 1.07 million sought the help of lawyers, but only 20% of this number actually received legal assistance. Needless to say, a massive 97% million Filipinos facing legal challenges are left to fend for themselves. 

The Gap and Why It Exists

Technology has been the flag carrier in implementing solutions to close the gap. Legal services are now being offered through online platforms such as apps, websites, and directories to make it more access in a smartphone-heavy country such as the Philippines. However, adoption and penetration rates among these platforms are still relatively low because “self-lawyering” is common practice among Filipinos. Seeing the size of the entire serviceable market, however, gives insight that there is still much opportunity for online legal service providers to capitalize on. Apart from the low level of awareness of the availability of these platforms, common among all online legal service platforms are three key drivers that cause this:

  1. Expensive starting rates - pricing is one of the reasons why the average Filipino is unable to avail of firm-offered legal services and as such, the accessibility of online platforms is defeated by their offering of high premiums. 
  2. Poor customer experience - the lawyer-client relationship is one that is built on fidelity and mutual understanding; the intimate and personal relationship expected by clients from their lawyers is not necessarily effectively translated when migrated online.
  3. Lack of transparency - clients generally prefer to work alongside their lawyers.

What Must Be Done 

Technology can most definitely help in bridging the gap between lawyers and clients to allow people to work out their problems with the help of a competent counsel. With everything moving mobile and online, the shift to a primarily online experience is an available area in the legal services market space that is up for grabs. The challenge now lies in who can best replicate the traditional legal experience or, if possible, who can redefine the experience and offer the next best thing. True enough, firms cannot go wrong should they elect to invest heavily on their online capabilities.  

Sources:

Adopted by the Eight UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba (1990).

Statista Research Department, Size of the global legal services market 2015-2023 (2020)

World Justice Project, Access to Justice Survey (2019)

About the Author:

Geroe Ezeah B. Valencia is a graduate of UP College of Business Administration. His experience in marketing and advertising equipped him with expertise in market research and data analysis. He is a firm believer that addressing business problems always require research-based and data-driven solutions.

We're also accepting articles from lawyers! If you are interested in submitting your article, kindly reach out at info@alexlegal.ph with subject line [Article Submission] and we will get in touch with you shortly.