Unbundled Legal Services: A Menu for Law Firms

menuYou walk into your mechanic’s garage to see how much he will charge you to fix your car. If he says, “Well, it depends on how complicated it gets. You give me $4,000 up front and then I will bill you off of that. It may cost more, it may cost less. I’m not sure yet.” What would you do? Run like hell, of course! So why do lawyers expect clients to pony up this kind of money with so much uncertainty at stake? Well, it’s complicated.

Typically, legal services have been paid for by upfront “retainers” where the client puts an amount of money in trust and then the lawyer bills his or her time every month and automatically deducts that amount from the trust account. The lawyer doesn’t have to worry if the client will have enough money to pay. He’s holding it in trust. And the client doesn’t have to worry about paying their bill every month. But the reality is that most of my clients don’t have a large chunk of dough to put up front. They just don’t. They’re hard-working folks who barely have enough to make ends meet and they haven’t budgeted for legal fees.

To accommodate my clients, I am moving towards a more menu-style pricing system where the client pays as we go for the services that they want. I charge a certain amount up front to get on the case and do the initial paperwork. Then I charge “a la carte” for each court appearance and any additional paperwork. My clients don’t have to pony up so much upfront. They have a much better idea of how much their case is going to cost. And they can pay as they go along.

Another option emerging in the legal market in recent years is called “unbundled” legal services, which is similar to the menu-style pricing but even more piecemeal. What if a client thinks that they can proceed pro se but they would like an attorney to look at their paperwork? What if they have done all the research and investigation and just need a warm body to make their arguments in court? With unbundled legal services, a client can pick and choose an attorney to perform “limited scope” representation for them, like looking over their paperwork or representing them at one court appearance. This definitely cuts down on legal costs and can be really helpful for a pro se client.

Clients are always better off having an attorney on their case. So I try to make my representation as affordable as I can for my clients. But even if they can’t afford me, I am willing to help them in a limited way for a small fee if it means they will be better off in court.

Lawyers are expensive, it’s true. But when you have so much at stake, you need someone in your corner. I will work with you to make my services are affordable as I can. Call me today and see how I can help you.

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