Consumers are going online in large numbers to purchase unbundled legal services, mostly DIY legal forms. They are turning to companies that provide legal form generation online without the benefit of attorney guidance, or they are purchasing kits at local office supply stores. Some are even attempting to search for free forms online and then modify them to meet their legal needs. In most cases, convenience and affordability are the motivating factors driving consumers to choose these less safe options.
These are legal services that consumers might otherwise be purchasing from a licensed attorney. There are ways for law firms to meet this consumer need and reclaim these clients by offering unbundled legal services. The offering could be the primary focus of the law firm or an addition to its full-service representation.
How do you market a law firm as a provider of unbundled legal services? As with all attorney marketing, the practical considerations must fall in line with the ethical requirements of our profession. To market unbundled legal services, a firm might consider the following:
1. Size up the competition
Who is the competition for unbundled legal services? In many cases it is the online companies providing DIY legal form kits from no-contest divorces and estate planning to business setup services. Is there any local or state-based competition? Notice if there are any online virtual law offices in your state unbundling services. Are other traditional firms providing unbundled legal services a la carte?
Take note of how they are marketing their unbundled services and make sure that your firm has a presence in the same space, whether that is through online advertising, directories or more traditional advertising. Remember that some of these online companies may not be bound by the same strict rules and regulations as licensed attorneys so be careful not to follow suit too quickly without first reviewing your state bar rules of professional conduct.
2. Plan out unbundled services and packages
Narrow down the unbundled legal services that you will be providing and consider offering these at fixed fee prices. Before you begin marketing these services, know exactly what tasks in each legal matter you will be unbundling and what portions you will require the client to be responsible for.
Think through the entire process of working with a client on an unbundled project to plan how you will provide instruction for how to continue the matter through its full completion after you hand the process over to the client. It will serve your marketing focus to have this procedure down to a science before you begin; it can be modified later as you learn what your limited scope clients need as far as continued guidance and instruction.
3. Invest more in online marketing
Consider using more online marketing methods than traditional. Most consumers seeking out unbundled legal services are going online to search for them. Focus your marketing efforts to reach them. Build an unbundled services page into your law firm website and if your firm is comfortable doing so, list the “packages” or a menu of services offered with sample pricing. Make the site easily navigable with buttons for the separate unbundled legal services.
Show with icons or in text the process of how the task will be unbundled, from the engagement agreement defining the scope of the limited representation through to providing clients with the legal documents and/or guidance for them to continue the matter on their own.
4. Network, network, network
Many individuals seeking unbundled legal services are pro se litigants. Network with organizations and individuals within the court system who come into contact with pro se litigants so that they know your unbundled legal services are available, and that they may be a safer option than no attorney guidance at all.
5. Educate prospective clients
Provide prospective clients with examples of the value that your services provide over your DIY competition. Explain the value of attorney review versus purchasing an auto-generated DIY legal form online. Also educate the clients so that they know the value of your services and the difference between full-service and unbundling.
For example, walk prospective clients through the steps of full-service representation in a divorce case and what often occurs. Then walk them through the unbundled no-contest divorce service so that they understand the differences in services, the value and the cost associated with each option. This is a good marketing tool, and it also ensures that the prospective clients fully understand the nature of unbundled legal services.
In your marketing campaign, provide adequate notice to the prospective client regarding what services will—and more importantly will NOT—be handled by your law firm during the unbundling process. Many clients seeking out unbundled legal services expect that they will be responsible for handling much of the footwork, but to ethically provide limited scope services you need to be extra clear from the first contact with a prospective client.
Marketing unbundled legal services is really no different than other forms of marketing for any law practice and must comply with state bar rules and regulations regarding attorney advertising. The real issue comes after the prospective limited scope client contacts the law firm, when the attorney must consider on a case-by-case basis whether unbundled legal services are appropriate for the individual client’s circumstances.