In my previous job as a technology journalist a phrase I heard a lot was ‘the consumerisation of IT’. Simply put it means the ready availability of sophisticated and affordable technology has led to workers introducing their own IT into their businesses.

Basically people are no longer putting up with crap technology at work.

To say a ‘consumerisation of legal services’ is also occurring might be a bit of a stretch, as it’s not a commodity in the same way. But the broader trend of consuming ‘on-demand’ services is perhaps changing expectations in how we pay for things in general.

Up front, pay-as-you go pricing is now common practice – whether using a mobile phone contract or downloading a track from iTunes. And there’s no reason why this shouldn’t apply to legal advice, too.

Sandie Okoro, general counsel at Barings Asset Management, says there is a growing impatience among in-house legal departments with private law firms charging inconsistent fees, hiking up costs each year for the same services, and failing to innovate in their offerings.

‘The in-house community really is a community and we do talk to each other so we know when a law firm is trying to pull a fast one as far as fees are concerned,’ she says.

In tough economic times users of all services want to know the exact value of what they are getting and expect flexibility in how they are delivered. Providing legal services in the same way they’ve been done for decades won’t cut it anymore in a market where everything else is changing.

In the world of technology a failure to adapt to consumer expectations can have dire consequences – just ask BlackBerry. And the business cost of failing to innovate is also a lesson private law firms would do well to heed.

Kathleen Hall is a reporter on the Gazette