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Engagement

As commercial businesses develop their digital strategies, more of them have created staff positions such as “Chief Engagement Officer” or the like.

Keeping good clients is much easier than getting new ones, but something lawyers are not very good at doing.  Unless the clients keep the lawyer engaged, too many lawyers sit back and wait for new work.

You can take control of that situation through active engagement of your present and former clients.  Find out why they came to you, what they liked, why they haven’t asked you to do more.  In short, LEARN from them then adapt.

What if the obstacle was lack of awareness of what you could offer?  What if your best quality in their minds wasn’t something you planned to promote?

Find ways to engage wit your current clients so you can see opportunities to attract new clients.

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“Practical Learning” is Right on Target!

In her opinion piece in August’s Inside Counsel, Janice Block asserts that today’s law school students need practical skills including Problem Solving, Project Management, Packaging Information and Financial Literacy, among others.  She is dead on!

My book, Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, was written precisely because law schools do NOT teach enough pragmatics.  Basic details about how to manage time, the importance of market research before opening a new practice, and finding ways to be more efficient with your efforts are sorely needed in any practical component of a legal education.

Hopefully, law schools will take Ms. Block’s and others’ similar comments to heart as they try to remain competitive in the legal education industry.

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‘Back to School’ Price for Limited Time!

To help law students who are returning to school for the fall term, I have temporarily reduced the price to $8.99 for the Kindle edition* on Amazon.com (and the equivalent price in most other currencies).

To take advantage of this special, temporary price reduction, click on this link and complete your transaction on Amazon by 11:59 p.m., CDT, August 31, 2013.  Remember: you do not need a Kindle to read the book; free Kindle reader software is available for most computers and mobile devices (see details at right).

Quantity discounts are also available, particularly for law students and other groups reviewing Limited Scope Representation and “Unbundling” as part of their studies.  For more information, contact me through this blog or via LinkedIn.

*PDF edition price is still $9.99, though quantity discounts and redistribution rights are also available to qualified groups.

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Addition by Subtraction

A couple of comments recently from people who have read the book are interesting when you consider them together.  One person wrote that people were contacting her asking her to handle only parts of their legal matters, even though she had done no advertising at all.  She was thoughtfully working on ways to handle this growing demand and reported that she made good use of the resources in my book.  The other person said he was considering offering LSR, but thought it may detract too much from the perceived value of his full-scope representation business (which, he admitted, was not keeping him fully busy).

This is one of the apparent (g00d) paradoxes presented by LSR:  you can actually have more business by doing less for your clients than most small firm and solo practitioners have by sticking to full-scope, traditional legal services.  I expand on the math in Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, but the basic premise is that high-volume, low-involvement legal services are in higher demand than highly-personalized, high-involvement legal services.

As any public or county law librarian in a county of any significant size can confirm, there are a lot of people who are willing and able to pay for “help” but do not know where to get it.  Get my book to get ideas on how to find and market to these eager prospects.  You’ll be glad you did!

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A Twist on Twitter

Twitter can be perplexing to anyone who has not figured it out.  The only way to explain it is to use analogies and then show someone how to make sense of it.

Even more challenging is trying to find a way to use Twitter to enhance your business.  Limited Scope Practice is no exception.

One option is to use Twitter to broadcast helpful tips and links to useful free resources on your website.  Another is to promote special pricing or events.

Or you could tell a story that illustrates what can happen if a legal matter gets out of control.

I have used Twitter to tell dramatic, real-life client stories (with the clients’ written consent, of course; though I still changed a lot for confidentiality’s sake).  One of those was picked up by a new, fantastic magazine, Characters.  I hope you will read the whole magazine, but at least look for “Jim’s Story.”  You can see that 140 characters can actually be plenty of space to work within.

Send me your novel ways of using technology to connect with your clients and I will feature some in future posts.

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What Should We Call This Type of Service?

Over the past decade or so, several terms have been offered to label the type of practice I describe in the book: “unbundling,” “limited scope representation,” and “limited advocacy” are just a few.  They may be interchangeable in most cases, but not everyone means the same thing when they use even the same labels.  The label “Limited Scope Representation” that I use comes straight from the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility that expressly permit such agreements.

When a lawyer and client agree to limit the scope of the lawyer’s services, they may or may not mean what another person calls “unbundling.”  But what they choose to call it does not matter.  It really only matters that the lawyer and client have a clear agreement on who will do what, by when and for what fee.

You will probably find that prospective clients do not use any of these labels.  They want a “cheap lawyer” or someone who provides “low cost legal services,” if you think in search engine terms.  Rather than focus on the name, think about how to communicate your low fees for specific, limited services in appropriate cases clearly.  You will get more inquiries that way.

Take a page from the burger business:  they sell a lot more “french fries” than they do “deep fried slices of white potato!”

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Anyone Can Learn This!

In Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, I go through the basic entry-level aspects of starting a brand new LSR practice or adding it to your existing law practice.  Also included are expert-level recommendations and tips you will not find anywhere else.  It is all jammed into this eBook for under $10 that you can download right now and start reading, even if you do not have a Kindle!  (More details on that at the right.)

Most law school grads have little training on how to actually make a living practicing law.  They hope someone will “give them a job” when they graduate so they can gradually build the confidence to possibly strike out on their own or with a few partners.  In the current economy, that is increasingly rare.  But don’t waste your legal education; get started on your own using the guidance in my book.  You are the primary audience I wrote it for!

If you have already read the book, I hope you will share your comments and experiences on this site.  My goal is to inspire and motivate all lawyers, law students and law professors to embrace this service delivery model and then innovate further to find new and better ways to address the vast unmet legal needs of the public.  One person called it, “legal services for the other 99%.” I don’t know about that, but I can vouch for the existence of at least a huge number of everyday people who want to pay and can pay something for limited legal assistance.

All you need to do is make it easy for them to do so (and you will find many ideas in the book).

What is stopping you?

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What mystery?

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Joe Palazzolo has a piece entitled, “Task Force to Study Lawyers’ Job Market.”  Apparently, a blue-ribbon panel has been assembled by the New York City Bar Association to, in Mr. Palazzolo’s words, “try to solve the riddle of the worst legal job market in 20 years.”  (WSJ, July 16, 2012, B4).

With all due respect to Mr. Palazzolo and the distinguished members of the panel, what riddle?  Perhaps if they invited a few economists to the task force they might get a reality check:  the legal profession has staved off the natural economic forces that have up-ended nearly every other business sector in the world but those changes are now here.

What other professionals charge by the hour with no cap?  Where else can one deliver a surprise invoice without any tangible deliverables–and fully expect to be paid!  Try finding another business sector where customers return again and again to purchase goods or services without comparison shopping.  From house cleaning to dental surgery, from real estate agents to tax accountants, other professionals have long ago shifted to billing methods with more accountability and transparency that provide more certainty and predictability for both buyer and seller, principal and agent.

The supply of available lawyers, coupled with the standardization and quasi-automation of tasks that used to be highly analytical and unique, translates into commoditization.  In other words, cheaper, task-based labor.

Analyze it, fight it, and demonize it all you want, the changes are not going away.  If you are in law school in order to get rich, re-think your fundamental assumptions!  But if you want to use the law (and your brain) to find innovative ways to help people solve legal problems, tell your law school dean to adapt the curriculum to the real world so you have a fighting chance when you graduate.  (And pick up a course or two in business management and marketing as soon as you can.) 

The practice of law is no longer about “thinking like a lawyer,” a la “The Paper Chase.”  Law practice is now primarily about finding better ways to deliver legal services to demanding consumers in an effective and efficient way that makes a profit, meets the client’s (a/k/a “customer’s”) expectations and, in the end, helps ensure your legal business will continue.  The prices customers are willing to pay for legal services are going down daily, so fewer legal businesses can afford to pay high salaries to new employees or hire new employees at all some years.  The permanent sea change is that the legal services sector is now more similar than ever to the technology sector: well-suited for nimble start-ups and entrepreneurs and poorly suited for over-weight, slow-changing conglomerates.

Disruption is occurring.  It doesn’t take a year of meetings to solve THAT mystery.

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Kindle edition tops on Amazon!

Screenshot of Amazon Best Seller Rankings

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50+ apply for $10,000/year associate position!

The headline in the ABA Journal caught a lot of attention: “More Than 50 Would-Be Associates Have Now Applied for $10,000-a-Year Boston Law Firm Job.”  It seems enough people want to get their foot in the door and learn (or re-enter) law practice that the below-minimum-wage salary is not an obstacle.  (Ever thought about how much money that firm will make off of its starving associates?)

Why not be your own boss and make even more money?  The thought of striking out on your own frightens many.  But “Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice” will show you that the venture is not so frightening.  You can even get going right in your own home or favorite coffee shop.  It is a rare opportunity that is “low risk; high reward.”

The book covers all the basics and will certainly trigger your own innovative ideas to launch, promote and expand yourpractice.  Grow at your own pace, but at least it will be your practice that grows.  You can do it!

If you have already gotten started, send me an email to tell me about your practice.  I am collecting success stories now to write about in an upcoming post.  There is nothing like a little free publicity, right?

 

P.S.  And speaking of publicity, many thanks to Neil Squillante and his crew for including the book in their invaluable SmallLaw 2012 Summer Reading list available through the Technolawyer SmallLaw newsletter and Technolawyer blog!  If you have read my book, you already know how much I like the Technolawyer.  Check it out and subscribe.  You will be glad you did.

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