Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

The Future ‘Middle Class’ of the Legal Profession – Unbundled Legal Services

Susan Cartier LiebelThis week’s Guest Post Friday is a real treat. Susan Cartier Liebel was a full-time coach/consultant for solos and small firms, an attorney who started her own practice right out of law school, an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law for eight years teaching law students how to open their own legal practices right out of law school until she founded Solo Practice University, the #1 web-based educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students.

She publishes Build A Solo Practice, LLC and is author of the popular free e-zine Solo Practice University™. She also speaks around the country on the topic of starting a solo practice and has authored numerous columns on the subject for The Connecticut Law Tribune, Law.com, The Complete Lawyer and Lawyers USA Weekly. You can follow her on Twitter and become fan of SPU on Facebook.The Future 'Middle Class' of the Legal Profession - Unbundled Legal Services

There is a lot of discussion about unbundled legal services, the breaking down of a given legal process into ‘parts’. Each part can be delegated to a lawyer to handle and paid for by the client or the client can handle themselves based upon their desire and/or budget. A lawyer’s ability to offer unbundled services can change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and by practice area.

Many lawyers see the unbundling process as minimizing the value of their services and taking their profits. Still others see it as hampering a lawyer’s ability to do a thorough job if they are only offering counsel for one or two segments of the process.

But this is where worlds collide.

“Most private practice lawyers today provide customized solutions for individual clients at high hourly rates, which is expensive for the client and unscalable for the lawyer. The democratization of information and forms on the internet, client demands for more cost effective solutions and the increasing encroachment on the profession by non-lawyers using new technologies will result in significant changes to the legal profession.”

(Read more at SLAW)

In the beginning there were only lawyers and those who chose to go pro se. Lawyers felt they had it locked up as the processes became more difficult and onerous. And there was no middle ground. Over the past decade or two, we have looked derisively at operations such as Legal Zoom and those who would purport to take business from us by helping those ‘en masse’ with delivering forms, doing the minimum processes clients wanted done, instead of hiring the local lawyer to do it. The person inclined to go to a company like Legal Zoom or any forms company assisted by non-legal staff is known as the ‘latent legal market’ – a type of Do It Yourself -er who understands they need legal assistance but wants to do it on their own, for the most part. And they accept the ‘good enough’ solution at the price they can pay instead of the ‘best possible outcome’ at a price they believe they can’t afford.

This latent legal market has always existed. They just were not thought about much except by those companies like Legal Zoom. Now that there is more competition for clients, technological intrusion into knowledge that was once protected behind castle walls, and an economy which is making clients think twice about legal services they perceive as optional, lawyers have to look at becoming, in effect, mini-Legal Zooms. They have to start considering unbundling services (if practicable for their practice area) as an option to penetrate the latent legal market. At the very least, they should consider offering unbundled ‘a la carte’ legal services (as permitted by their jurisdiction) in order to compensate for potentially reduced traditional compensated work.

There is an added benefit to considering unbundled legal services. There are many ‘new’ Do-It-Yourself -ers born out of troubled times who will feel more secure exploring doing work themselves while still working with a local lawyer holding their hand. If they believe they are over their heads or want to change their minds, you are right there to catch them and continue with paid work. The clients become clients for life. They spread the word to their DIY friends. You’ve now gained traction in a market you once closed the door to or never realistically considered before.

Food for thought…and hopefully consumption.

As always, Susan and I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with all of the Guest Post Fridays and other Construction Law Musings.

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15 Responses to The Future ‘Middle Class’ of the Legal Profession – Unbundled Legal Services

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  2. Thanks for the great post Susan!
    .-= Christopher G. Hill´s last blog post .. Musings Nominated for Best Construction Blog =-.

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    #solopractice #DIY RT @SCartierLiebel …The Future ‘Middle Class’ of the Legal Profession – Unbundled Legal Services [link to post]

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    RT @constructionlaw: The Future ‘Middle Class’ of the Legal Profession Unbundled Legal Services [link to post]

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    RT @YahyaHenry: RT @constructionlaw: The Future ‘Middle Class’ of the Legal Profession Unbundled Legal Services [link to post]

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    RT @SCartierLiebel: RT @constructionlaw: New Musings: The Future – Unbundled Legal Services [link to post] Change=opportunity.

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  8. […] View original here: The Future 'Middle Class' of the Legal Profession – Unbundled … […]

  9. Interesting. Scary in many ways. What ethical considerations does the lawyer have if the DIY’er messes up the part done pro se? Seems that this leads to more uncompensated work in the long run, cleaning up the mess caused by the DIY’er before doing the a la carte work you’re getting paid to do.

  10. Thanks for the comment Gary! I see this as a potential issue. I rarely recommend DIY, but this is a real potential marketing opportunity. This does not come up too often in my area of practice (except in misguided attempts to self file mechanic’s liens), but in certain areas clients will find forms and use them, we just need to be ready to deal with that particular client.
    .-= Christopher G. Hill´s last blog post .. Green Building, Litigation and Risk =-.

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  14. The Future ‘Middle Class’ of the Legal Profession – Unbundled Legal Services | Build A Solo Practice @ SPU says:

    […] post originally was a guest post on faculty member Chris Hill’s popular blog Musings. I thought it relevant to Build A Solo Practice @SPU’s audience and am republishing […]

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