Wal-Mart lawyers

Larry Ribstein —  11 November 2011

Yesterday’s WSJ discussed Wal-Mart’s (possible) plan to dominate the industry of primary health-care clinics:   

Wal-Mart said in its proposal document that it is interested in offering services, including clinical care such as asthma, sleep apnea and osteoporosis monitoring, diagnostic services such as allergy and blood testing, and preventive services such as vaccinations and physical exams, as well as health and wellness products. It asked vendors to propose low-cost plans and said it would make final selections by January

Wal-Mart is evidently responding to the expansion in demand for such services that could result from Obamacare.

Staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the clinics are increasingly pushing into the management of chronic diseases like diabetes, helping to fill a shortage of primary-care doctors that is only expected to worsen as health-care reform increases the number of Americans seeking their services. The clinics help lower health-care costs by dealing with patients with basic illnesses or nonemergency issues who otherwise might have gone to an emergency room.

But Wal-Mart already faces stiff competition in the medical field from such big players as CVS (645 clinics), Walgreen (347 clinics), Kroger, Target and Safeway. 

So maybe Wal-Mart would be interested in leading the way in the less-crowded field of low-end legal services, once deregulation comes to our shores.  

Should this happen?  If in medicine, why not law? The need for lower-cost legal services is surely as great as that for medical services.  The public is protected by the providers’ need to protect their costly brands. 

My point here is only that, like it or not, the Wal-Mart lawyer is rapidly getting more plausible.

Larry Ribstein

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Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

2 responses to Wal-Mart lawyers

  1. 

    In the UK, they refer to the ABS model as “Tesco” since Tesco is is a global grocery and general merchandise retailer offering a wide array of goods and services and which is headquartered in Chesthurst, England and is the world’s third largest retailer and is certainly ubiquitous in England and the continent.

    In the United States, once the ABA and the various state bar associations get around to formal approval of the ABS model, we may likely call it the Wal-mart model. As I wrote some time ago, in commenting on the Tesco model at http://kowalskiandassociatesblog.com/2011/04/27/alternative-business-structures-here%e2%80%99s-a-great-idea-let%e2%80%99s-get-some-private-equity-funds-to-invest-in-large-commercial-law-firms-and-we%e2%80%99ll-all-make-a-ton-of-money/

    “On July 22, 2011, UK based WH Smith announced an arrangement with Quality Solicitors, also of the UK under which the joint venture would open a chain of approximately 500 retail outlets in various shopping malls, manned primarily by non-lawyers, in which a host of legal services would be offered. One hundred and thirty retail outlets are to be part of the initial launch. Quality Solicitors plans on having some 50 or 60 law firms utilize these retail portals. Some legal services will be delivered directly at the point of sale. More complex matters will be funneled to the law firms participating in this mass marketing scheme.”

    That business model will be on these shores quite soon, with or without ABA approval. It is, as I noted, the logical next step for LegalZoom.com and RocketLawyer.com.

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