In life, there is one thing that can be counted on—change. As a professional, how are you adapting to the changes?
Picture a typical client consultation:
Attorney and potential client engage in a discussion regarding legal problems the client is facing. Attorney discusses the different legal options available. The meeting is now at the point where the attorney tells the potential client that an advance payment of $5,000.00 would be required before any further assistance can be provided.
Now, some potential clients are able to immediately provide a check or credit card to secure representation. However, many are left with the stark reality that they simply cannot afford this payment. This situation represents a true access to justice problem. It also demonstrates a huge mismatch in the way we, as attorneys, are providing our services. Our approach is all or nothing, but does this really have to be a zero-sum game?
According to data provided by the Pima County Superior Court, an average of 66% of family law cases (excluding post-decree/judgment matters) filed between FY 2010 and FY 2016 involved at least one self-represented party at the time of filing. This number represents missed opportunity. It represents missing out on the chance to provide your legal expertise to those whom need it, and it also represents missed income.
Is there a way to ethically and efficiently provide services to those on a budget? The answer is yes. By unbundling your services and charging either a flat fee or hourly rate for those services, you are able to better serve this population, and provide services to a new clientele which you currently do not serve. Unbundling allows you to limit the scope of your representation (within ethical standards) and provide services tailored to your client’s specific needs and budget. This delivery method provides both you and your client with what is needed most: the client receives services tailored to his or her needs and budget constraints and you receive payment for those services.
Consider again the potential client/attorney meeting where the client has announced she cannot pay $5,000.00 in advance. Perhaps, you have identified the most immediate need in her case is filing a timely Response, which will take you about an hour to prepare. That client does have the funds to pay your hourly rate to assist her with the Response. To ethically take her on as a client and protect yourself from assuming a larger role in the case than you intend, it takes careful, clear communication and written documentation. However, this should be no different than the fee agreement and discussion you already have with your clients. Now this same client can leave with a legally sound Response, and you were paid for your time. This is a win-win, which seems like a much better game to play.
In conclusion, perhaps it’s time for you to unbundle your bundle. Your clients will be highly satisfied because you can provide the services they need most at a price they can afford. Your business will have a steady stream of revenue with very little administrative costs. And, your efforts will increase the ability for all people to have access to justice.