Monthly Archives: April 2012

Do it on Law Day


On May 1, 1958, President Eisenhower proclaimed the first “Law Day” in the United States to commemorate the nation’s commitment to the rule of law as espoused by our founding fathers.  Every president since then has issued a similar proclamation and Congress officially established Law Day in 1961 (36 U.S.C. 113).

This year, the American Bar Association’s theme for Law Day 2012 is “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”  There are far too many who do not have meaningful access to the courts–and therefore, to justice and true freedom–because they cannot afford a high legal retainer or high, unpredictable legal fees.  At the same time, there are thousands of lawyers who struggle to make ends meet while establishing or maintaining their traditional law practices.

If you are one of those lawyers, take a moment to reflect on the meaning of Law Day and the 2012 theme, then resolve to help yourself while helping others by offering limited scope representation as a service.  What better day to resolve to launch–or better, to launch–a limited scope practice or menu of services?

The unrepresented prospective clients out there need you.  Your legal system needs you.   Be part of the transformation from “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom” into “Access to Courts and Access to Justice means Preserving Our Freedom.”

Limited Scope Representation:  it is not just about making more money; it is about meaningful service to those who can afford to pay something for your valuable, but limited assistance.

So go ahead: launch your LSR practice.  Launch it on May 1, 2012.  Whether you do it for Law Day 2012 or some other reason, at least do it!

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The Best Form of Advertisement

In her new webinar, available soon from the Practising Law Institute, lawyer and private family law judge M. Sue Talia remarks that “limited scope representation clients who are happy will be the best source of referrals.”  I completely agree!

As I explained in an earlier post, the social media age we are in means you cannot safely ignore the way consumer feedback spreads at the speed of light.  Do not simply guess that a satisfied or unsatisfied client might comment to others; expect it.

With well-trained thumbs, a client can comment on you and your work before even leaving your office or the courthouse.  But rather than fear this, embrace and employ it to your advantage.  When a limited scope practice client happily finishes a legal matter on which you helped them, they will feel confident, proud of themselves and happy.  That is what you seek.  For months and even years, they will tell people about their positive experience and the lawyer who helped them.

And keep in mind:  even though it may not be in your basic nature, ask them to spread the word.  These days, I am no longer surprised when other professionals, from doctors to hair stylists, politely ask me to tell my friends and family about their services.  That is no longer strictly within the domain of retailers and restaurants.  Whether through a follow-up “thank you” email, a brochure and business card, or some other method, ask for referrals when you thank the happy limited scope practice client and make it easy for them to spread the word.

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You May Already Be Late!

Limited scope representation is already in use by lawyers across the United States and other countries.  You are fortunate that it is still a relatively unusual type of practice, but that will not last.

In Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice, you will find a concise description of the LSR Practice.  The book is rich with practical ideas you can put into place right away–ideas you will not find anywhere else! 

The Appendix also includes FREE forms and materials to help you build your own LSR practice in your own jurisdiction within the limits of the applicable rules of professional conduct.

Whether you plan to add LSR to your existing, traditional practice, or focus primarily on high-volume, focused simple services, there is already a large, growing market of people who want to avoid the costs and financial unpredictability of full-service legal representation in their legal matters. 

That pool of prospective clients will be served by someone.  Will it be you, or someone who beats you to it?  Get your copy of Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do-It-Yourself” Client today!

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“Reasonable Under the Circumstances”

In Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice:  How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, I lay out numerous reasons why you should consider limited scope representation (also known as “unbundling” or “unbundled legal services”), walk you through the ethical and financial considerations involved in limited scope practice (and most others), and give you plenty of practical advice on setting up, promoting (aka “advertising”) and running a limited scope representation practice.  Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled “Saftey First: 6 Ways to Protect Yourself:” 

We start with the recognition that the agreement to hire a lawyer—or for a lawyer to perform legal services—is a contract.   The elements of a valid contract, therefore, must be present.  The limitation on the scope of a lawyer’s duties and responsibilities must thus be by agreement with the client.  The ABA’s position is that the options are very broad as to how much the scope of services can be restricted.  The restriction can apply to the type of assistance, the number of matters, the duration of assistance and the terms under which the lawyer is available for other services or an extension of the agreement.[1]  It is essential that the client agree to the limited scope of your services.

The limitation must also be reasonable.  Reasonableness is subjective and based on the specific situation.  Just because your limited scope representation is normally reasonable does not mean it is reasonable in all situations.  You will need to make sure the services are appropriate for that client in that specific situation on that particular day.  Every time.

[1] Comment 7, ABA Model Rule 1.2.

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They Will Know The Value

One thing lawyers in private practice grumble about universally is that their clients seem to not appreciate the value represented by their work.  I have heard it over and over:  “all they gripe about is the billing rate!  Don’t they know what it took for me to gain the ability to handle their legal matter?”

Well here is a bit of good news:  any nonlawyer who has tried to handle their own legal matter WILL appreciate your value!  Just because the prospective client wants limited scope representation does not mean they do not think you are worth your fees.  It generally means they have, well, limited means.

Rather than try to finance their matter and take the risk of nonpayment on yourself, break the representation down into discreet phases and tasks and see what you can do for a modest, set fee.  Paid in advance, of course.

Chances are high that the “do it yourselfer” who has turned to you for help will be much more understanding about that fee than someone who wants you to handle the entire matter for some mysterious (from their perspective) cost to be determined as you go along.

And who knows?  The client of your limited scope practice may come into an improved financial situation and be able–and quite willing–to pay you for full scope representation!

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Sue Talia’s Webinar is Wednesday!

If you are still on the fence about LSR or are just setting out (without the benefit of a book such as Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice), you should invest a little of your time on April 18 for a FREE webinar by M. Sue Talia entitled, Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation.  You may even be able to get CLE in your state, and when you are starting out or struggling with a small practice, free CLE is always a good thing!

The webinar 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.

The seminar is live in San Francisco and will be broadcast live via the PLI web site.  Tune in and turn onto LSR!

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When Less is More

According to “The Phrase Finder” website, the phrase “less is more” is a 19th century proverbial phrase that was first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

The phrase is often associated with the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style.*

Countless authors and designers have used and re-used the phrase and you probably hear it often in casual converstation and business meetings.  How does this relate to Limited Scope Representation Practice? 

In Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice, I included a chapter “DIYers: Seeking Less for Less,” to walk the reader through an analysis of the premise that Do-It-Yourself types, “regardless of their motives, seek less for less.  They want contained costs and control over the services and will take on some tasks to keep costs down.”

Lawyers who find ways to serve clients in limited ways by providing appropriate limited scope representation will tap into a huge market of prospective clients hungry for ways to get their simple legal matters finished for a fair price.  These clients can pay piecemeal, as the work proceeds, and will likely return time and time again.  They are willing to pay “less” for less work from you, which turns out to be “more” for these clients because they would not receive any services from a full-scope, high-retainer firm.  (These points are explained more thoroughly in the book.  Download yours today!)

This is not “supply side” economics; the demand is already out there.  All you need to do is learn how to reach the prospective clients, communicate your LSR services and pricing, and establish the lawyer-client relationship correctly.

Then watch your LSR practice grow!

* “Less is More”, The Phrase Finder, accessed online April 8, 2012.

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“Workshare” for Lawyers and Their Clients

A core concept in Limited Scope Representation is the non-traditional way of dividing work between lawyer and client.  In full-scope representation, the lawyer typically handles everything.  With limited scope representation, the client earns a big discount by handling a significant portion of the work in the legal matter.

The key to effectively and ethically shifting this dividing line is clear communication.  You need a written fee agreement and a document that memorializes the list of tasks that the lawyer will–and will not–perform for the stated fee.  The “will not perform” list is as important as the list included in the stated fee because it serves as a check list for the client and documents the agreement between them.

A good example of one of these checklists is included in the Appendix to Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice:  How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client.  There are many ways to implement such a checklist in the retainer process and to incorporate the checklist as a tool to support the representation agreement.  Whichever options you use, just make sure you have a clear, written memorialization of the way work is shared in the LSR context.

Who knows?  When the LSR client sees the list of tasks that are not included, they may even ask you to take on more for a higher fee!

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