The market is changing for law firms. A majority of clients cannot afford full representation as it traditionally functions. Recently, attorneys have been adjusting or “unbundling” their services to make them more affordable, a process also known as limited scope representation. In this episode of New Solo, host Adriana Linares discusses unbundled legal services with Dave Aarons, CEO of Unbundled Attorney, a company that works with attorneys who offer these types of services. In their discussion, Adriana and Dave cover what unbundled legal services are, whether they are accepted by courts everywhere, and the ideal logistics behind law firms that offer these services. They also raise the subject of lowering initial retainer prices and adopting a pay-as-you-go system. The thought is, communicating affordable options to potential clients could be what keeps your clients from walking away from full representation.
Dave Aarons is the co-founder and CEO of Unbundled Attorney, a lead generation company that works exclusively with attorneys that offer unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope or discrete task representation.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Solo Practice University, Clio, Answer1, and Perfectit.
Your Opinion Matters
Help us make your favorite shows better by completing the 2022 Listener Survey.
The Benefits of Unbundling Legal Services
Intro: So you are an attorney and you have decided to go out on your own, now what? You need to plan and you are not alone. Join expert host Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune into the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm, here on Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: Hello and welcome to New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I am Adriana Linares. I am a legal technology trainer and consultant. I help lawyers and law firms use technology better.
Before we get started on today’s exciting episode, I want to make sure and take a second — well, I am going to take about a minute, so hang in there with me here to thank our sponsors. There are four of them and they are all great and amazing and I want to make sure you check them all out.
So let’s start with PerfectIt. PerfectIt is a legal specific proofreading software that locates mistakes that neither spell check, nor the most eagle eye lawyer can find. Try PerfectIt from HYPERLINK “http://www.intelligentediting.com/”intelligentediting.com.
I also want to make sure and thank Answer 1. It’s a leading virtual receptionist and answering service provider for lawyers. You can find out more by giving them a call at 800 Answer 1 or online at HYPERLINK “mailto:answer1.com” answer1.com, that’s HYPERLINK “www.answer1.com” www.answer1.com.
I want to make sure and thank Clio, the world’s leading cloud-based legal practice management software. Thousands of lawyers and legal professionals trust Clio to help grow and simplify their practices. Learn more at HYPERLINK “http://www.clio.com/”clio.com.
And of course I want to thank Solo Practice University at HYPERLINK “http://www.solopracticeuniversity.com/”solopracticeuniversity.com. They are a great resource for solos both old and new to learn how to run their practices better.
So today I have Dave Aarons on the line. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Unbundled Attorney. Unbundled Attorney is a lead generation company that works exclusively with attorneys that offer unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope or discrete task representation.
And what does all that mean? Well, it’s maybe a buzzword or a term you have been hearing about or read about or somebody has been talking about, and maybe you don’t know too much about what unbundled legal services is, that’s exactly why I have invited Dave to come on the show, felt he was an expert on this.
Dave Aarons: Hey Adriana, happy to be here.
Adriana Linares: I am so glad. Like I sort of alluded to, this is a topic that I think many lawyers, especially young lawyers, and new solos and new lawyers are hearing about and they are not really sure what it means or if it would work for them. So I was looking for an expert that could come on and talk about it in a really clear way. I know that you can do that for us.
You and I met last year at the Clio Cloud Conference and I thought you were a nice guy and sounded smart and I thought, you know, that’s someone I would really like to have on the show. So thanks for coming.
Dave Aarons: I am happy to be here and happy to shine some light on unbundled legal services so that lawyers can learn a bit more about it.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. So before we dig into what it is, how it works and then get your advice about helping lawyers, because I listen to your podcast, which we will talk about too, and you give a lot of advice, but also your stories about how the lawyers that you talk to have successfully managed to build a practice that is either exclusively unbundled or mix and match is really helpful.
So before we do that, I want you to tell us a little bit about your background and where you came from and where you are.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. So I am originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, so I am a Canadian, but —
Adriana Linares: You Canadians, you are such good people.
Dave Aarons: I know, we are good folks, I have to say. So I have a background in the legal access plan business, originally with a company called Prepaid Legal, which is now called LegalShield, and then moved on to work with a company that was essentially a competitor, but provided a little bit different form of service.
And it’s a very good option for folks that just want to get some advice, get a document review, the model set up as a membership, where people can pay for the service to just have access for a phone call or a document review, but what we really found is when people were looking to hire an attorney, especially for contested custody and visitation matters, that the plan only provided a 25% discount, and they work with pretty large law firms, sometimes in the referral network, but pretty standard rates are $3,000-5,000 initial retainer fees.
So even if you are getting 25% discount off a 5K, you are still paying roughly $3,500-4,000 as a starting retainer. And so a lot of folks we just found just couldn’t afford that.
And when I was working in the second legal access plan company I worked in, I worked in a role as an attorney resources helping build the network of attorneys we worked with, and what I found is that we started to find specific lawyers in specific regions, where we would talk with the clients, we would get an idea of their financial resources, and it seemed like whenever we would send a client to these specific attorneys, even if they only had $500, $1,000, $1,500, varying different types of cases, varying financial abilities, they seemed to be able to help every single person, whereas we had a lot of folks who we would send them to a firm, they would quote them a big retainer of $4,000, they call back and then want to cancel the service, just because it didn’t alleviate their real underlying need, which was not only getting the legal assistance they need, but at a rate they could afford.
And so, once we kind of found about, what is it that these attorneys are doing in these cities where they are able to help, seems like almost anyone we sent them, at least give them advice, get their document stamped, or whatever it may be, and of course, what we find out is that they were offering unbundled legal services in the sense that —
Adriana Linares: Did they know they were offering unbundled legal services?
Dave Aarons: Some of them weren’t familiar with the term, others did. I mean, some of them were very purposeful that this is what we do, this is how we do it, and they were some of the — I mean, this is mid-2000s, maybe 2006, 2007, 2008, long before the ethics opinions were coming out and supporting it, and 2008 hit, when it almost became a necessity, and we can talk about some of the shifts in the market that have happened since then. But a lot of attorneys were just offering it.
They were listening to the client’s needs, finding out where they were at financially, and then just limiting the scope of their involvement down to specific tasks, whether it be just doing their documents or doing it as a pay-as-you-go or offering payment plans and just finding a way to serve the client in whatever made sense to accomplish their goals legally and work within their means financially.
And so, once we started to see these lawyers and said, if I were to send 10 clients at a firm that offered $5,000 retainer, with discounted to roughly 4K, maybe one of the clients would be actually able to afford that attorney even with the 25% discount, but when we would send 10 clients to an unbundled attorney, we found that 7, 8, 9, and sometimes even 10 out of 10 of those clients were getting service from that lawyer.
And so we decided at that point, we said, well, look, if we can somehow identify attorneys all throughout the United States that offer these types of options, then if we take that difference in the amount of people that can get help, where it’s 5, 6, 7 times as many folks are able to get service, and duplicate that across the entire country, then we really will be in a position to make a significant impact on the affordability of services in this country.
And so that’s what we have set out to do as a goal is identifying attorneys that offer these options and then also educating lawyers about these types of options so they can start thinking about how they can integrate them into their practice so that more clients that are not in a position to come up with a huge retainer upfront will be able to afford and get the help they need to, to proceed with their case.
Adriana Linares: So, let’s back up just a little bit, because you said you were working for a couple of prepaid legal services, or one or two, and so you started to see this phenomenon or this trend and you decided to start your own company. Are you a lawyer?
Dave Aarons: No, I am not an attorney myself, no.
Adriana Linares: That’s okay. I call us proud non-lawyers, because I am not a lawyer too.
Dave Aarons: Yes, you and I share that.
Adriana Linares: So #proudnonlawyers. It’s us that help support many of the lawyers that run around this country without help, here we are. So you are a proud non-lawyer, you are working for legal aid services, sorry, Prepaid Legal, which is a little different, and you started a company and you notice that this thing called unbundling was happening. So why don’t you take a minute and describe what does it mean exactly, as clearly as you can, when lawyers hear the term unbundled legal services or limited scope representation, what does that mean exactly?
Dave Aarons: Yeah. So unbundling basically means normally when a client is going to hire an attorney, the traditional approach is just full representation, which just means they are going to collect a retainer fee upfront, whether it be $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, and that’s just simply a reflection of the amount of hours they are taking upfront. So, if their hourly rate is $250 an hour, they are taking 20 hours all upfront, and then they are collecting that as a $5,000 retainer.
So that’s the traditional approach, whereas with unbundled legal services, attorneys are adapting the amount of service and adapting the amount of hours they may take upfront in order to meet people’s needs financially.
Adriana Linares: So does that mean that you are putting as the lawyer some of the work, much of the work or a part of the work back into the client’s hands? So they are the ones that have to go down to the courthouse and file something as opposed to you or a clerk doing it and you charging it for them?
Dave Aarons: Yeah. If we look at strictly unbundled options, meaning where they are providing services under, for example, specific flat rate or providing just a specific part of the case, like for example, one of the most popular things that attorneys will do is they will assist the clients with the preparation of all the court documentation; I am speaking specifically to family law right now. So they will take all the facts of their case, create a synopsis from the client, and then basically fill out all the forms, and all the documents for the client, prepare a written declaration or written argument essentially, draft it all up, get it ready to go. And then depending on the options they are providing, they might deliver the documents to the client and then give instructions for the client to file and proceed pro se.
They might file the documents on their behalf and sometimes enter a limited appearance, depending on the state. The states have different ethics opinions about that, as far as the different types of options and the degree of options, or it might look like just providing coaching.
So it really just depends, but essentially they are really focusing on very specific tasks, whether it be an appearance, giving advice, preparing documents, as opposed to handling a case from A-Z and requiring a huge amount of hours upfront.
Adriana Linares: That sounds good, sounds doable. And do you find that lawyers who are going to offer services like this have a very specific sort of menu of services, a chart of services, or do they tend to take each case one by one and then decide how to break it apart, or maybe there is both?
Dave Aarons: Yeah. We have worked with hundreds of lawyers and seen a wide — not a wide variety, but a lot of different variations of the way in which they are going to offer the price points for that, but generally speaking, usually what they have is maybe roughly three different tiers of service, where on one tier you will have, where the clients are coming in with documents they might have already filled out, and they are giving strictly advice and guidance and coaching, and they are basically reviewing those documents, explaining what they mean, maybe making some corrections, making some improvements to that, giving them advice on what the next step is, how to respond and just providing some guidance. And that might be an hour or two of time. And so maybe that might be in the $250-500 range, depending on the hourly rate.
And then you have that next level, where they are taking a more active role, where they are actually preparing the court documents for the client, for example. And so they will draft it up and deliver it to the client and then give them instructions on how to file. Sometimes they will even give them a consultation right before court to give them an understanding of what to expect, so that person has a better chance of doing a good job when they actually go to court on their own.
And then you have maybe a third tier of service, which would be preparing the documents, filing it, and then in certain cases, entering a limited appearance, and again, varies based on statements, so that’s more in the $1,000-1,500.
And then as far as the way they bill that, sometimes they do it hour by hour. What a lot of attorneys are doing nowadays is they are offering these unbundled discrete task services on a flat rate. So they will say, okay, we will go ahead and draft all the documents for you, we will give you advice on how to file it and give you consultation beforehand. We can do all of that for $750, for example.
And then what they are doing is they are starting to leverage technology to streamline the process on how quickly they can get those documents done. And if you like, I can give some examples of that on ways in which they can start to actually increase their effective hourly rate by utilizing systems to start to speed up that process. They can sometimes leverage a paralegal and their staff to help with the drafting and really start to see a very high effective hourly rate, even though they are offering an option to the client that fits their budget and ultimately they can afford.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s part of my life, my job here on this planet, is to help lawyers figure out how to be more efficient, so they can do more work and make more money without doing more work and making less money.
One question for you before we take our break, are there any — because you are familiar with the way unbundled legal services might work across the country, are there any states that don’t allow this type of model or have a problem with it or are there any lawyers that are going to come out there and say, well, I checked with my State Bar Association, it turns out they don’t really love unbundled legal services, or has it been pretty steady across the country, where it just seems to kind of work and there aren’t too many issues with it?
Dave Aarons: We have attorneys that are providing unbundled legal services in all 50 states. The amount of services they may provide — the one thing that definitely varies is, number one, obviously the ethics on doing — is basically limited appearances. That’s the one thing that really we found some courts like, for example, California, Washington, Idaho, these courts, they can — there are even forms they can file which says, notice of limited appearance, they file that document on their behalf and then informs the court, and then they really have no real issues, from what we have heard, from the attorneys doing that with getting off the record.
I mean, the most important consideration of limited appearance is that they don’t get stuck representing a client if they are not being paid for the services. And so they make an agreement and expressly in the written agreement, they are going to provide services with the client that they are going to do a limited appearance and then leave and file a notice of limited appearance with the court.
Whereas, you take some other states that are a little bit more conservative, they don’t have those same processes, it’s been interesting to see, for example, how Texas has evolved, Austin has come out and really Travis County has been one of the innovators or on the cutting edge of fully endorsing attorneys offering unbundled legal services and other counties aren’t.
So I guess the advice I would recommend is, make sure you check your local ethics opinions as far as limited appearances, but generally speaking, across the board, offering unbundled services, where you are doing ghostwriting or assisting with document preparation, as far as we know, or at least as far as the attorneys offering these services, that really hasn’t become an issue. I mean, the courts really have been supporting this, because as I can talk about, there’s been a complete shift in the amount of clients that are filing pro se and that has put a huge burden on the courts and their ability to handle all these pro se litigants.
And so there were some determinations by many courts in the American Bar Association that attorneys who are going to offer these options, even if they are not involved in the whole case, that’s still going to be beneficial to the court, beneficial to the client, and so they made some clear ethics opinions supporting attorneys offering these kinds of options.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s great. That’s good advice. It’s exactly what I wanted to make sure we got in there.
Well, listen, before we move on to our next segment, we are just going to take a quick break and hear a message from a couple of our sponsors.
Imagine how much faster you could work if you spent less time proofreading. Almost every lawyer wastes hours each week proofreading rather than producing legal work. With PerfectIt’s American Legal Style you spend less time proofreading and have more time to focus on substantive matters. It’s easy to use and there is no training required. Type PerfectIt for free from HYPERLINK “http://www.intelligentediting.com” intelligentediting.com and start saving time on proofreading today.
Is your firm experiencing missed calls, empty voicemail boxes and potential clients you will never hear from again, enter Answer 1 Virtual Receptionist. They are more than just an answering service. Answer 1 is available 24/7. They can even schedule appointments, respond to emails and agree with Clio and much more. Answer 1 helps make sure your clients have the experience they deserve. Give them a call at 1-800 Answer 1 or visit them at HYPERLINK “http://www.answer1.com/podcast”answer1.com/podcast for a special offer.
Okay, great, we are back. So Dave, a couple of more questions I wanted to ask you. I want to talk logistically a couple of minutes to help lawyers who are thinking about this. You have explained what unbundled legal services is and reminded lawyers that they always want to check with their Bar Associations about ethics, especially as far as limited representation.
And let’s talk a little bit about the logistics of a lawyer who is interested in doing this type of work. I also want to thank you for actually saying out loud maybe a range of prices or rates that a lawyer might charge for that type of work, which I am guessing the range you were giving was pretty realistic, because I know, I talk to a lot of new solos, a lot of young lawyers and setting their rates is really, really hard for them to figure out.
So I always really like when we can talk numbers that somebody can say, all right, well, I am in LA, I might be at the top of that range. I am in McCook County, Nebraska, maybe I will be in the middle of that range. So I think that’s really helpful, and if you have anything else like that that you want to add, make sure you say it, because I just think really practical advice is helpful for our lawyers.
I wanted to ask you, again, like logistically, we have talked now just a little bit about pricing, but what about doing these types of services remotely. Are you finding that lawyers who work with you through your services or your experience that you have met, do they have offices, do they work from their homes?
I remember one of your podcasts that I listened to, one of the attorneys that you interviewed was like dead set, adamant, he wanted an office, everybody comes in, and then like the next one that you spoke to was very into remote services, and my clients don’t want to see me as long as I help them. So what kind of advice can you give on sort of which model or both models or what have you seen out there, as far as whether you have an office or non-office, or how much of this can you do through a portal that clients might be able to fill in information and upload and download documents? Talk to us a little bit about that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, what’s really great is it really is up to the attorney as far as what is the way in which they feel most comfortable running their practice. I mean, if you want to have an office and have clients come in and work with people in person, every single one, we have got plenty of attorneys that are offering that.
But then we also have a number of attorneys that like having the flexibility of being able to work from home, we have had a lot of attorneys that have kids and like spending time with their kids at home, and even when they were just getting started, a lot of new solos maybe didn’t have the office space and were offering options where they are working more virtually or even meeting people at a coffee shop.
So there’s a wide variety of ways of doing this, but I think in order to accomplish — I mean, clients coming in and just meeting in the office and providing service is probably the most traditional sense. But when it comes to offering virtual services, that’s where I think the most opportunity to integrate systems that maybe most attorneys haven’t integrated yet. I mean, I can speak more to that.
And one of the things that it becomes key is, they are offering a phone consultation over the phone; I mean, we are obviously doing lead generation, delivering the client, they are calling the client up, spending some time with them to identify their needs, figure out exactly what they are looking to accomplish, and then from there getting an idea of where the people are at financially, so they can get a feel for whether that person is going to be — whether they are going to be working on an unbundled basis or more full representation, and remind me that we should circle back on full representation, there’s also ways where attorneys can offer really creative ways of structuring that retainer, so that they can serve more clients, even when you have the clients that they have the type of case where they just need full representation, no matter what.
But when it comes to that, a lot of attorneys are starting to integrate, for example, they are using Clio or various different softwares, where they can complete the intake process right over the phone, or they can even send a link for the clients to basically fill out a questionnaire online, where that information then auto populates right into Clio or, for example, companies like Lexicata, that are making the that on boarding process.
Adriana Linares: The CRM, yeah.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, the CRM process, where that information literally comes into the CRM, and then from there the attorneys can basically prepare a synopsis, from the conversation of what the client says on the call, as far as the main facts of the case, or they can even have the client submit a questionnaire that basically says, here’s the situation, here’s my version. And then that information all goes into the database and then either the attorney, depending if it is a solo or if they have some staff, like a paralegal or a legal assistant, can then take that information, draft the documents, and by the way, there is technology now where that information will then, once it’s cleaned up, auto populates directly into the documents.
Clio offers, for example, document automation software, where that information that’s part of the database, all those main records auto populate right into the forms and there’s a little bit of set up there. But once you get that going, that information goes right into the forms, the information the client is provided about their case and the main facts, paralegal can draft into the appropriate attorney judge language, according to the rules of the court in that local court, the way they know what the facts that are most relevant to the case, and of course omitting the ones that aren’t. And get that done very quickly and also completely virtually, from any device, anytime.
And so that’s really — not only is it making — giving the attorney —
Adriana Linares: It’s the Holy Grail.
Dave Aarons: Well, it’s giving the attorneys the capacity to not only work from anywhere, theoretically, and some clients will — there have been certain cases where they are drafting all the documents for them and they never see the client at all. They could deliver the documents, they take that paperwork, and they go file it themselves.
And then there’s other cases where they might start off working with them virtually, get the documents done, get things in order, and then when it’s time to file and go to court, that’s when they meet. They actually meet on the courthouse steps.
So it really just depends on the case. So there’s that aspect of it. And then there’s also of course the streamlining of the process, where you are taking that information, it’s going into the CRM, 23:19 the forms, and it’s getting done really quickly and really efficiently, so that it starts to bring down the amount of time it takes for the attorney to get documents out the door, and then, of course that is going to increase their margin or the amount of effective value add they are seeing.
Adriana Linares: Right. So let’s just take a second to unwind all that, so that lawyers who are listening can really grasp the possibility of the systems that you mentioned. So lawyers, imagine a world, where you have a form on your website, which is either a public form or a form that you put behind a client portal or behind a password, so it’s on your website, whether it’s hidden or not is up to you.
But you can send a client or a potential client to your website, very easy, my lawfirm.com/clientintake. They fill out the information themselves as opposed to you or a client intake specialist or a secretary or paralegal. Now, believe me, I understand the value in doing that as well, so I am not saying you would never talk to a client or a potential client, but I am saying there are certainly opportunities where you could gather at least enough basic information to get started through a form.
And from that form, that information gets transmitted or just sort of passing that form can be captured by a tool that Dave mentioned; Lexicata is one of our favorites. We actually had Michael Chasin as a guest on the show last year, I am pretty sure it was last year, talking about client relationship management and contact management, which sometimes we are not necessarily really good at in legal. So we had him on to talk about Lexicata.
So Lexicata might be that first point of entry. It’s a great tool, capture that information, and then it passes that information into Clio. Now Clio is cool, we all also use Clio as an example because they are our sponsor and if you have listened to this podcast long enough, you know that it happens to be one of my favorite modern practice management programs.
Clio is cool because it allows you to create custom fields. So out-of-the-box Clio might not have a field for the JA, it might not have a field for the case number, it might not have a field for the daughter’s name, the son’s name, and that’s okay because not every lawyer needs those fields but they do allow you to create custom fields.
So from your CRM you might capture that information, it can dump it over into a system like Clio which has a place for those custom fields to go, and then Clio, like Dave mentioned, has a document automation tool. I’m not going to tell you it’s the most sophisticated one I’ve ever seen. There are very sophisticated ones, but for basic forms, for the type of work that I referred to as predictable and repeatable legal work, commoditized work, I know you guys don’t like to hear that but it’s a term, what Clio does is more than enough.
So the data goes from the client putting it into your website over to Clio where you’ve got custom fields that are ready to capture that information and then with just a couple of clicks you can send that data from the client form inside of a tool like Clio over to your documents and those documents you will have had to take the time or have someone take the time to set those up to be merged document.
So basically at this point we’re talking about a mail merge and then the mail merge will either spit out a Word document or a PDF document to allow you to either share those at that point with your client either through email or a secure client portal or create the PDF file that’s ready to file.
So imagine all the time, we want you to stop for a second and think about what it takes you today in your office to complete that cycle from client intake to putting it into a system to creating the documents that you need.
Now, if these systems could help you do that within — and I’m not even kidding, one to two minutes, doesn’t that sound good?
Dave, that sounds good to me. I want that if I’m a lawyer right?
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and we’re getting into some mechanics and technology that for a lot of attorneys might be overwhelming initially. I think the most important thing is, once you start to offer these options, there’s a number of ways that you can start to streamline this process. I do this all day so I can rattle drive this stuff off but I don’t want attorneys to feel overwhelmed. 90% of the lawyers that work with these clients are from unbundled legal services, just do it belly-to-belly. And they just come in the traditional sense, it’s just rethinking how they can structure the way in which they are going to work with the clients so that the client can afford it. I mean, we’re talking about average working families; I even have some statistics, Adriana, back in 1971 maybe 1% of filings were pro se, and as of 2004 it was about 65%, in most courts it’s 70% to 80%.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, it’s crazy, I mean, this is our whole access to justice problem that we hear so often about, and I think what is good for lawyers to hear too is that there’s a lot of this work available. So if this type of work interests you and being able to streamline it and use these systems whether you’re overwhelmed or you’re willing to learn it’s an attractive thing to think about and talk about because there’s an overwhelming amount of work available, and Dave, as a person who started a company that generates leads for lawyers across the country.
You’re probably one of the best sources to sit there and say, there is a lot of this work available and I know because we capture it and we deliver the opportunities to lawyers.
Listen, before I let you answer that I’m going to let you percolate for just a second, I am going to take a quick break and hear from our sponsors, and we’ll be right back.
Clio is an invaluable software solution for law firms of all sizes, handling all the demands of your growing practice from a single cloud-based platform. Clio enhances your firm with features such as matter and document management, time tracking, and even billing. Clio is an effortless tool that helps lawyers focus on what they do best, practice law. Learn more at HYPERLINK “http://www.clio.com/”Clio.com.
Ready to create and build your own solo or small firm practice, need a nuts and bolts education on the 360-degree experience of starting a business? There is only one online destination dedicated to helping you achieve your goals, Solo Practice University, the only online educational and professional networking community dedicated to lawyers and law students who want to go into practice for themselves, more than 1,000 classes, 58 faculty and mentors. What are you waiting for? Check out HYPERLINK “http://www.solopracticeuniversity.com/”solopracticeuniversity.com today.
Adriana Linares: Welcome back to New Solo. I’m Adriana Linares and with me is Dave Aarons from the Unbundled Attorney. When we left off, I left everyone on a cliffhanger. I said, Dave, isn’t this work available because you generate leads, and tell us that works available?
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely I mean, we’ve been providing lead generation services for a very, very long time and there’s no shortage of demand —
Adriana Linares: No shortage.
Dave Aarons: — in clients that are needing representation. The challenge is, if you’re trying to get clients that are going to pay you $5000 upfront that is by far the minority of the market, and not only that, we’ve had a significant shift in the amount of attorneys that are in the market. Basically since 1971 — I’ve got some statistics here again, in 1963 there were we had — I’ll give the numbers, but basically there’s three times as many lawyers for every single person and there’s about a-third of the amount of clients that can afford 5,000. So if you want to be — so basically we’ve had a shift in the marketplace, and so, if you want to be able to serve and succeed in this market from a business standpoint strictly, look at where all the people are, it’s the 65% to 75% of clients that at this point are going unrepresented, but the reason they’re going unrepresented primarily is that someone quoted them $5,000 retainer, they didn’t afford it, so they figured they had to go it alone.
Adriana Linares: Right.
Dave Aarons: And so, if attorneys can start to adapt the amount of service — the types of services are offered whether it would be unbundling in offering document services under a fixed flat rate, $500, to $750, to a $1,000 providing coaching and also as a pay-as-you-go. There’s a lot of clients, and again, even the majority of the leads that we generate attorneys are going to retain those clients for full representation, but they are just going to get creative about the way they structure the retainer and do more of a pay-as-you-go type of approach where they’re going to take a lot lower retainer upfront maybe instead of $5,000 it will be $500, a $1000, $1500 something like that, and then they’re going to make a payment arrangement with the client or they’re going to do one task at a time and pay as they go or they’ll just take the retainer fee and maybe leverage an automated payment system like for example LawPay where they can just set up a payment plan with the client, let’s say $250 every two weeks, put that into the software and that payment just processes automatically as soon as that person gets paid.
And that really increases the amount of times that payment is going to go good and so attorneys can begin to rely on the fact that the vast majority of the time those payments are going to go good and so they can start to be a little more creative and offer lower starting retainers, and that’s really the main barrier that most people in this country are having trouble overcoming is coming up with a big amount of money upfront, and so, whether it’s offering unbundled or being more flexible with the initial retainer, that’s the type of work that there’s an abundance of in this country, and by offering these options you’re still able to see great income from the clients.
And I can talk about that as well, but it’s really just meeting the needs of the market, adapting the services to that, and if you’re able to do that, we’ve got an abundance of clients that would be very appreciative and excited about the opportunity to work with an attorney on a rate that they can afford.
Adriana Linares: Tell me what are the top two or three questions that you get from lawyers when you’re training them, teaching them, educating them, talking to them about unbundled legal services? What are the — your most frequently asked questions?
Dave Aarons: I think the thing that we really focus on when it comes to helping them make the transition is obviously one of the typical price points we should offer, and also I think the most important challenge is, how to communicate these options to the client and how to explain, and I think, the attorneys usually what they’ll do is, they will get a feel for the situation, figure out what the client needs to accomplish and they would say, okay, my retainer fee is this and I expect the whole cost to be this, would you like to retain me? That’s a very simplified version, but basically it just gives them their standard rate. And then the client says, I want to think about it or okay, we’ll see what we can do in terms of the money, and then the call is over, whereas if you start to take more of a identifying the needs of the client by asking questions and ask the client, one of the things that’s unique about our firm is we offer both unbundled and full representation; unbundled legal services means that we can tailor the amount of service we provide specific to your legal needs and financial considerations, can you give me a general idea of where you’re at financially that way we can tailor something specifically to your budget.
Adriana Linares: Do you find that lawyers are — I can’t imagine that somebody is on the Internet literally googling lawyer “unbundled legal service”, so do you find that most people who are looking for lawyers that fit inside this range of the model works for them, even know that limited representation or discrete task is a thing or like you just said, are lawyers saying depending on the situation when the potential client walks in the door, or walks in the internet door, hey, we have this option for you?
Dave Aarons: Yeah, it is definitely the latter, I would say, we’re doing everything that we can as a company to educate the public, to let them know that these services are available, but I think — for them I think the most important thing that they have in their minds is, okay, well, it’s not 5,000, it’s probably more like 500 to 1500 depending on my case, and so they come in with an expectation that the majority of time that they need to — that they’re going to be paying something, but it’s going to be less because there’s a creative option at the attorney’s office.
So what that means is, is that the attorney needs to make sure that they’re educating the client about these options when they come in, because really the problem they have is, they don’t have 5,000 they’ve got 500, 1500, 2000, and so it’s educating the client explaining to them first of all what is their budget financially and then explaining to them how you can tailor the amount of service or —
Adriana Linares: To their budget.
Dave Aarons: — the given tailored options that you can provide specifically to their budget.
Adriana Linares: And I want to take you back one more quick question, you earlier said that — and this is turning back to the lawyer’s side, to your clients’ side, not the lawyer’s clients’ side, so your clients are lawyers, you’re turning back and you said, talking to — I asked you what are the top two or three questions you get and you said helping them understand not just what it is, how to successfully use this as a model, but explain it and also transition to.
So what kind of my question is, are you finding that lawyers are coming to you and from off the bat they say, I want to be an unbundled legal services attorney or are you finding that lawyers are coming to you saying, hey, I’ve heard about this, I have a full representation practice right now, I’m wondering is there a place that this fits, and then tell me a little bit about those types of law firms, like can you do both, are you doing a 30-60 or are you finding the lawyers who maybe were doing full representation are doing so well with unbundled, maybe their lifestyles changed a little bit, if they are able to streamline it’s more work, but yet less work.
Again, going back to the systems, give me a little background on what that looks like from your perspective at least?
Dave Aarons: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot less attorneys that fully embrace un-bundled legal services, know what that is, know how that works and just is compassionate about offering it. I think this is still a very new concept. A lot of lawyers are struggling. They’re going, where are all these clients that they were 10-20 years ago, but there’s been a market-shift and so they’re looking for ways to be able to still maintain their practice, growth their practice, but offer options that can serve the majority of the market. And so, I think really a lot of attorneys come in and say, hey, you know, you guys offer lead generation, you can bring new clients, real-time leads, deliver to our Inbox, and then the second level is, okay, well, so how do we then educate you and we have an on-boarding process where we have a webinar that explains the different types of options they can offer, the different price points, how to explain that to the client.
And even attorneys that are offering unbundled legal services, the important thing to understand is that if you are generating leads of clients that are interested in unbundled services or at least would explain what those options offer, the coming and needing your assistance right now, the majority of clients still end up pertaining for the attorney for full representation, but the attorneys are offering that more affordable upfront retainer, they’re doing a pay-as-you-go, and handling things from start to finish.
So it’s more like 75% of the time probably on average, it’s still going to be for representation so long as the attorneys offering just a more creative and more flexible initial retainer, and then maybe 25% to 30% of the time they’re delivering the unbundled option where they are just doing the documents, giving them advice, but again, that also varies based on the practice, the market, and so, that’s part of the reason we put together the podcast so that attorneys could hear real-life examples of other attorneys, the types of options they offer, and just like you, I really not push but encourage attorneys to —
Adriana Linares: Oh I push.
Dave Aarons: — get specific about the types of options, yeah, get very specific about the options they’re offering so that you can start to formulate the ideas and figure out what works for you. It’s like a buffet and you go along and you pick the things that suit your appetite and your practice, and there’s just a lot of different ways to do it, and so, that’s really that process by which attorneys start to think about and how to adapt and integrate these types of options into their practice in addition to the full representations, the options they already offer.
Adriana Linares: Well, that’s great. This has been really great having you on, and thank you for taking the time to come talk to us, and I say this at the end of every episode. I’m bummed out, we’ve run out of time because it’s so interesting and I think it’s helpful and I hope that listeners are learning something new and if nothing else we have piqued the interest of some lawyers out there about learning more about unbundled legal services, tell our listeners how they can as I like to call it stalk you and/or your company on the Internet or learn more about the services that you provide and of course follow you on the various social media platforms.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, I would think the best way to learn more about unbundled legal services, lead generation, the types of options, is really I think to subscribe to our podcast which is called the Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast, especially for those that are newer to thinking about how to offer these options in their practice or new solos that you want to learn how to offer this other option that gives them a differentiator right out of the bat that they can make that launch.
So that’s a really good place to start, you’re going to hear from attorneys that have 50 years of experience, attorneys that are fresh out of law school, that have been able to launch with lead generation, we also talk about some very specific strategies on how to field lead.
So, that’s a good place to start if you want things kind of in a condensed format and just want to get a very clear point-by-point layout of here’s a different kinds of options you can offer, this is the market, we have a webinar that we put together that’s about one hour long on our website, which is HYPERLINK “http://www.unbundledattorney.com” unbundledattorney.com, and that’s a really good place to get more information about these types of options and see a really clear, concise, PowerPoint presentation that we put together that kind of lays out these options, explains lead generation and the strategies that go into that, and then of course, if you just want to learn more about whether we have leads available in your area and maybe even offering these options already, you just want to grow your practice and get more clients, you can just go to the website HYPERLINK “http://www.unbundledattorney.com” unbundledattorney.com and then just hit the Submit a Contact Request and one of our team members will give you a ring and talk to you more about it.
Adriana Linares: All right. Well, thank you so much, Dave, it was great chatting with you.
For all of you listeners who want to learn more about what you’ve heard today, make sure you visit New Solo at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com and don’t forget to subscribe or follow us on iTunes, your favorite RSS service Twitter, and of course, Facebook.
If you like the podcast please take a few minutes to give us a 5-star rating on iTunes, that would be great. I think I have five 5-star ratings. I think we should up that a little bit.
So that brings us to the end of our show. I am Adriana Linares and thank you for listening.
Join us next time for another great episode; and remember, you are not alone, you are New Solo.
Outro: Thanks for listening to New Solo with host Adriana Linares. Tune in again to learn more about how to successfully run your new practice, solo, here on Legal Talk Network.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.