Time waits for no solo to get his or her act together. And this economy and today’s D-I-Y consumers will steamroll over anyone who doesn’t give them what they need at the price they can afford. The internet has forever changed the way we do business by providing quality research and choice at the tip of our keyboard-savvy fingers. And either you’re with them or against them. Don’t give them what they want and need and you become a distant link in their browser history. It’s that abrupt and that cold.
In the world of everyday ‘average Joe’ practice areas, consumers are being forced financially to take more ownership in the resolution of their legal problems. Egged on further by the internet and a judicial system supplying more and more information (by necessity) on how to handle matters pro se, your potential clients are turning to you with a powerful request – one upon which your livelihood depends; give me what I want at a price I can afford. What I want is help on the matters I can’t figure out myself and I’ll pay you a reasonable rate for this.
Solution: Unbundled legal services.
Are you considering ‘unbundling’ your services as an option? Do you know how?
It is essential that we promote other efforts to close the “justice gap.”One such effort involves the “unbundling” of legal services. Forty-one states, including California and New Hampshire, have adopted a model rule drafted by the American Bar Association, or similar provisions, which allow lawyers to unbundle their services and take only part of a case, a cost-saving practice known as “limited-scope representation” that, with proper ethical safeguards, is responsive to new realities.
While there are have been well-known champions of unbundling, (we have two faculty, Richard Granat and Stephanie Kimbro, teaching how to unbundle your practices at Solo Practice University) now more and more lawyers are appearing on the digital landscape and their business models are very intriguing.
Susan Wakefield, a family lawyer of over 22 years, has formed Connecticut Legal Coaching, LLC, a legal service specifically designed to support the staggering number of individuals throughout the family courts in Connecticut who are faced with the daunting task of self-representation in their divorce, custody, or post-divorce matter. Legal Coaching, with its unique pay-as-you go and “A La Carte” structure, makes quality legal services accessible to all individuals so they can acquire the knowledge and tools needed to navigate through the system on their own. At Connecticut Legal Coaching, self-representation does not have to mean being alone. Individuals throughout the state now have a place to turn for advice and guidance in their family law matter and where they become empowered by understanding the process and acquiring the skills necessary to represent themselves effectively and with confidence. To get started with Legal Coaching, you can take advantage of our special $99 package that includes:
• 30 minutes of Legal Coaching that can be used at any stage throughout your family law process. For your convenience, the time can be used via phone, e-mail or in-person.
• A divorce packet that contains a step-by-step guide to starting your family law action, steps to take before commencing an action for divorce, an outline of court dates, conferences and their meanings, a list of the documents needed for your final divorce hearing, and all the court forms you will need to file throughout your divorce action.
• Also included is an outline of tips specifically designed for the self-represented.
While much is interesting about this business model, what strikes me is she is showcasing 80% of what is already available to consumers on the internet and repackaging it as a value add. She is successfully marketing to these clients her real value-proposition – 22 years in the family courts. She is charging for her 22 years of knowledge, experience, and guidance which no pre-printed form or harried clerk can (or is permitted to) provide a pro se litigant.
By repackaging instructions and bundling with a 30 minute consultation via e-mail, phone or in person she is accommodating need as well as fielding out those who may in fact want greater representation and can afford it. Additionally, she showcases this type of consultation as a ‘good investment.’ Kudos, Attorney Wakefield.
Now meet Billie Tarascio and her firm Tarascio & Del Vecchio. She is providing unbundled legal services at $99 per hour.
Having an attorney doesn’t have to be expensive! We are a Company dedicated to increasing Access to Justice through the promotion of low-cost limited scope legal services. We have literally thrown out business as usual to bring you affordable legal services. Our firm offers licensed Arizona Attorneys who can help with all areas of family law, estate planning, civil litigation, real estate disputes, criminal law, immigration and more.
Our model of business keeps our costs low and eliminates administrative fees so we can pass the savings along to you. We never charge a retainer and everything is pay-as-you go. This way, you aren’t paying for the clients who don’t pay their bills!
Here is the rationale behind their business model supported by (outdated) statistics:
According to National Center on State Courts in 1991-92, 71% of domestic relations (family law) cases had at least one unrepresented party. In 18% both parties were pro se litigants. Both here in Arizona and around the country, the number of people choosing to represent themselves is on the rise.
WHY? According to 1996 report on pro se by University of Maryland Law School:
- 57% of self representing litigants said they could not afford it
- 21% said they believed their case was simple and they didn’t need an attorney
- 45% of self-representing litigants believe that “Lawyers are more concerned with their own self promotion than their clients best interest.”
I think it’s fair to say given this economy the number of pro se (or pro per) litigants is significantly higher. While Tarascio and DelVecchio have a slightly different business model and cover significantly more practice areas than Wakefield, the recognition of the increasing number of pro se litigants and the viability of building a business model for them is shared.
I know unequivocally this is the future of the legal profession for a significant majority of private practitioners. The only question remaining is how long will it take you to participate on some level.
If you are already unbundling, please do share!