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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Most lawyers work piecemeal by the hour. We develop skill in a niche. Develop a book of business or market to get more work in the area. And then do the work, though varying in some degree, time and again.

I am not saying that’s bad.  As lawyers, we do a lot of good things for people, their families and their communities. We’re integral to a society of laws.

LexBlog does much of the same. Develop technology and use it to deploy solutions for customers – though we’ve always operated on a subscription basis. As discussed below, we’re evolving from that way of business.

But as Amazon showed again this week with launching a business selling an automated checkout solution to retailers, there is a different way of making money. Develop a process and the technology to support it, use it yourself in your own business and then license the technology/solution to other parties.

In Amazon’s case, opening up Amazon Go or Amazon Go Grocery stores need not be the only way to grow revenues.

Amazon can license their solution – the technology behind its cashier-less convenience stores to other retailers. Retailers that have to rent store space, pay employees and incur all the other costs and risks of operating a retail operation, that Amazon will not have to do.

From Reuters’

The world’s biggest web retailer said it has “several” signed deals with customers it would not name. A new website Monday will invite others to inquire about the service, dubbed Just Walk Out technology by Amazon.

The highly anticipated business reflects Amazon’s strategy of building out internal capabilities – such as warehouses to help with package delivery and cloud technology to support its website – and then turning those into lucrative services it offers others.“

Amazon wasn’t in the retail grocery business a short time ago, and still isn’t in most of the country, let alone the world. But it’s already leading the market for retail without cashiers, a market that U.S. venture firm Loup Ventures estimates could grow to $50 billion, per Dastin.

Customers don’t like standing in line and Amazon is going to license a solution with 24/7 support to third parties. Third parties who may have to use such a solution,  just like retailers did to sell on the Internet after Amazon started it all, twenty plus years ago.

Licensing your own process and tech solution as a way to bring in greater revenue than using your own process and solution to facilitate your own business is nothing new to Amazon and Jeff Bezos.

  • Amazon started licensing it’s technology for companies to use in setting up online retailing. Think back to Toys R Us which built it’s own online stores, as opposed to accepting Amazon’s technology. I think they’re out of business.
  • AWS. Amazon had a ton of excess server space so it started licensing the space to companies like LexBlog which started using it fifteen years ago because it was cheaper and more powerful than operating our own servers.
  • Stores and businesses selling on Amazon. The vast majority of consumer based retailers sell on Amazon. Rather than Amazon doing the fulfillment and shipping, the retailer does. Amazon is licensing everything else for a cut.
  • Washington Post. Jeff Bezos buys the paper and builds a heck of tech solution to run and publish it. The Post then licenses the solution and technology to other newspapers, including the Boston Globe, LA Times and the Chicago Tribune.

I’ve long looked at the Amazon model as a good model for LexBlog’s publishing business.

We’re managed WordPress platform at our core. A WordPress platform with a lot of customization for ease of use in legal publishing. A managed platform in that we’re managing the platform from the server operation to core upgrades to feature enhancements to training and support.

Without this core technology we couldn’t offer a professional turnkey blog solution, operate LexBlog.com or be offering a Syndication Portal product for publishing aggregated and curated content.

LexBlog now needs to start looking at what we offer as SaaS solution for legal publishing. And to start looking at whether we are selling it as such. Our solution may be more valuable to our customers and potential customers – as well as LexBlog in framing its delivery as such, as opposed to selling one “site” as a time.

In addition, legal publishers, without as powerful a managed WordPress solution can begin licensing our solution. We’ve built it and could build the infrastructure to support such deployment.

I started with lawyers, and think the Bezos thinking could be relevant here as well. What systems and processes, let alone technology, can law firms license to corporations and other law firms. Maybe the same thing can be done with software built by some firms.

There may be more revenue in licensing systems, processes and, for some firms, technology than in selling legal services.

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