My book, Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice, is subtitled “How to Make Money Serving the ‘Do It Yourself’ Client.” The word “Serving” is not there by accident or some literary device. LSR is the practice of law in a way that serves the needs of clients who only want to pay for a limited amount of your services.
Just like when money is no issue, a person normally prefers a luxury hotel or expensive automobile, but when frugality is the motive, they accept less in exchange for paying less, the LSR client is cost-conscious and wants to split the work in a way that fits the client’s budget and capabilities. LSR clients are not looking for second-rate lawyering, they are looking for someone who can professionally guide them through their self-representation and even perform some of the most challenging aspects of it for them. They seek professional services–your professional services.
Think of LSR as serving as a professional coach, specialist or guide, when the client is an athlete, generalist or tourist. You draw on your special skills and knowledge to serve the client’s specific needs in a cost-effective arrangement that is both mutually agreeable and appropriate for the situation. You may know lawyers who see themselves as superior beings to those who have not taken a bar exam. They are akin to the surgeon with a “god complex” in the medical profession and have forgotten that the client is the person in charge of the representation. LSR is antithetical to that mindset; it is all about service.
If you can see yourself leading others in their times of personal need with simple legal matters by helping them help themselves under your tutelage, then you are perfect for LSR.
The LSR Practice can be highly portable, especially with laptops, iPads and other mobile computing devices. That is great, but what about getting paid? No one wants to carry around a lot of cash and personal checks (if the client even had any) are too risky.
In Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, I have a chapter devoted to containing everyday expenses so you can keep more of the lower fees you will be able to charge for limited scope services. (See info on a discount for blawg followers in an earlier post.) One of those recommendations is to get a credit card reader for your mobile phone or laptop.
There are two companies who announced convenient readers over the past few days. Paypal has a Virtual Terminal service with its MagnaSafe reader. But that system does not work with American Express cards and probably others. So now PayPal has introduced the “PayPal Here” device. Only a few merchants were able to get one at first. This webpage let’s you get on the notification list for the broader release scheduled for April 2012. The device and app will first be available only for iPhones, then for Android devices.
Not to be outdone, Intuit will provide the reader at no charge if you use their payment service. GoPayment works essentially the same way, and you do not need a monthly contract if you choose to simply pay a small processing fee per transaction. Works on a wide range of Apple and Android mobile devices.
Now, you have no reason to miss out on “walk up” business at your mobile LSR event!
Why is the number of people taking the LSAT at a 10 year low? The LSAT Blog reported the 16% drop on March 19.
The legal profession is not dead, but it is evolving. In some places, it is changing faster and easier than others. But the changes are coming more from external pressures (social, economic, etc.) than an internal vision, so potential future lawyers may be unable to see where it is going.
One thing remains–and in fact is improving: there is plenty of room for entrepreneurial, hard-working people who want to learn the law and make a living helping others with that knowledge. And those old fogeys who still try to stand in their way are retiring, clearing some of the illogical obstacles to this transformation.
Last year, I wrote a blawg post, “Are Your Legal Processes Ready for Outsourcing?” targeted at the corporate legal department. But small firms and solos can gain valuable economies of scale from “legal process outsourcing” (LPO), too.
LPO is not just for big firms and legal departments. It is perfect for any work that has a high degree of repetition. Rather than spend your time with mundane or cookie-cutter activities, you may be able to pay someone else to do them for you at a rate that lets you cut your costs and increase your volume. At the least, you can focus your time where a higher amount of judgment and personal attention is required.
Just like you might outsource lawn care, plumbing, hair care and housekeeping services to people who focus their skills on a single service and perform that service repeatedly for many customers, you can outsource document preparation and other services to give you more capacity without adding permanent staff.
There are important steps to take before you shop for an LPO firm or company, however. “Know thyself” applies here perfectly. Do you have enough standardization and consistency in the “workflow logic” that you can describe the legal processes clearly enough for someone else to do them at least 90% of the time without having to ask you to make a judgment call? Just because you can do something repeatedly does not mean you have written out the directions so well that someone else could do the same thing the way you want it done.
Read the blawg post and get the book (ordering info at right). ThenStart and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice!
In today’sWall Street Journal,Carl Bialik’s article “Job Prospects for Law Grads? The Jury’s Still Out” appeared with the observation that:
Last year’s report, the latest available, shows that 87.6% of 2010 graduates who responded to the surveys were employed as of Feb. 15, 2011—the lowest rate for the previous year’s graduates since 1996. Meanwhile, just 68.4% of graduates who responded were in jobs that required passage of bar exams. And those respondents who reported their salaries represented just half of all employed graduates.
The legal service economy has changed forever. We are not graduating too many lawyers, we simply are still trying to shove them all into old-fashioned law practices. While there will continue to be a need for large, multi-state and multi-national “mega firms” with floors and floors of lawyers able to tackle the most complex transactions and law suits, for the average individual client–the people who make up the vast majority of the client base for the vast majority of lawyers–the legal system is out of touch.
There are ways to bridge the chasm between the huge number of individuals who can afford to pay for legal services and the huge number of lawyers who would like to make more money as their lawyers. My book walks you through these options, including how to protect yourself and implement innovative procedures within the professional responsibility boundaries. Look at the sidebar for information on how you can obtain this “practice-changing” how-to guide that is a condensed resource with practical ideas, checklists and forms.
Lawyer, trainer, mentor and private family law judge, M. Sue Talia will present an updated webinar through the Practising Law Institute on April 18. The seminar, entitled “Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation 2012,” will provide an introduction to the rapidly changing practice of limited scope representation (often called “unbundling”) in a family law context, including all of the fee agreements, forms and other materials you will need to practice limited scope representation competently, safely and profitably.
So watch the live webinar starting at 9 a.m. PDT for valuable information, perhaps some CLE credits and a great perspective from a lawyer who has done and trained other lawyers to deliver LSR. And did I mention that it is FREE?
Excerpt from Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client.
Word of mouth referrals are the cheapest form of advertising you can find. If your work generates positive comments from your clients to others, you will have built-in marketing. On the other hand, if your clients leave frustrated or worse, you will have to spend a large amount of time and money to overcome the negative reputation.
Read more in the book, including “6 Ways to Protect Yourself” and “Legal Econ 101: Five Fundamentals.” The book is a condensed practical guide for anyone who wants to get started right away and includes checklists and key forms.
The rule that governs the general concept of limiting the scope of representation is Model Rule 1.2(c).
The rule language is important. You want to do everything within reason to avoid disputes and problems with the client—and thereby contain as much as possible the risk you expose yourself to in every representation—so make sure you understand this rule and the version adopted in your state. Read the rule, the comments and any other rules that are referenced in either the rule or comments in your jurisdiction.
Paragraph (c) looks simple enough: “A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.” There are some important components in that language, however, that, if you do not pay attention, can open you to trouble down the road. Those terms are “reasonable under the circumstances” and “the client gives informed consent.”
In the book, Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, I wrote an entire chapter on ways to protect yourself both in a general law practice and especially when embarking on a LSR Practice. The good news is that LSR clients are generally more satisfied than traditional full-scope clients and are thus going to be less inclined to complain or file grievances. Get the book, follow the strategies, pocket the results.
You’ll be glad you did!
 Although every action taken on behalf of a client is subject to all applicable rules of professional conduct and other law, this discussion is limited only to the ABA Model Rules and Comments, except where noted.
For a limited time, I am offering a 20% discount on the PDF edition of Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice for those of you who “follow” this blawg. Just include “FOLLOW20” in your email order and you will see the discount on your invoice. Payment is through PayPal or your credit card.
It is a way to thank those of you who signed up to follow the blawg early. Thank you!