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Law Business Manifesto

What Makes a Lawyer “Affordable”? The Affordability Paradox

dollar bill on white brick backgroundYou’ve heard me say it here repeatedly, the traditional law practice model is broken. And, if you do not make a change in the way you practice law and serve clients, you are going to get caught behind the 8-ball, and keep struggling and maybe even give up the practice of law altogether.

And with the rise of technology like estate planning software for lawyers, and do it yourself legal document drafting systems for consumers, you might have extra reasons to think you have to compete on fees to get hired.

But, you don’t. And trying to compete on fees will simply run you into the ground.

I often hear from lawyers who say: “I don’t want to raise my fees. I want to be the most affordable solution for my clients.”

Fair enough. I get that perspective. It may seem like it’s in service to your community to provide affordable legal services.

And, it is a service to provide affordable legal services. But the way in which you do it is probably totally skewed and actually leaving your clients worse off, as a result.

Affordability is NOT putting in place a cheap estate plan for your clients, which you know is going to fail when their family needs it because it will never be updated and their assets will never be owned in the right way by the time they do become incapacitated or die.

The truth is that cheap estate plan will be the most expensive decision they ever made for the people they love. It cost my family tens of thousands of dollars to deal with my father-in-law’s ex-wife and the probate court after he died and his estate planning documents failed us. 

Lit up sign that says "think outside the box"

Affordability is NOT incorporating a clients’ business for $1,500, and then never being in touch with your client again until they contact you because their bank account got levied for $11,000 by the EDD because they did not properly send in reports on what they paid their contractors.

Being the most affordable solution for your business owner client is making sure they have all of the legal, insurance, financial and tax systems they need in place to support their business visions and dreams.

Being the most affordable lawyer does not mean providing legal services at a discount, which will inevitably result in your clients ending up in court or conflict.

But what about online legal document services, like LegalZoom® and RocketLawyer® or even upstarts like TrustandWill.com?

It’s not only impossible for you to compete with online legal document services, but it’s also a huge disservice to you and your clients.

What you want to do is leverage this technology to the fullest in your law practice, and then differentiate yourself from these technology services.

For example, if you are an estate planning lawyer, you should definitely be using an estate planning document drafting software to ensure your legal documents are the most up to date, and so that you are highly efficient at drafting. And, at the same time, do not get caught in the trap of thinking that just because you have the best documents, that you are selling and getting paid for your legal documents.

Your clients can fill out legal drafting software online themselves.

That is NOT why they are hiring you, and if you frame your services that way, you will be stuck in the race to the bottom on your fees along with all the other lawyers who are stuck thinking they are selling documents.

So, what IS ‘affordable’, really?

Affordable is charging your clients a meaningful fee up front for a service that truly makes a difference in their families lives and keeps them out of Court and out of conflict. And, this meaningful fee is meaningful enough to allow you to have both a great income and a great life while still being the most “affordable” solution for your clients.

This is what we call the “Affordability Paradox”.

Affordable is charging your business owner clients enough so that you get paid to set them up right, with everything they need to succeed — basic contracts, IP protection, insurance, financial systems and tax guidance. And then, you charge them a recurring fee on an ongoing basis to make sure they aren’t overlooking any of the pieces they need to grow and scale the vision of their business.

handshake in background, words on top say learning, experience, skills, growth, knowledge, training, ability

Remember, we are attorneys and COUNSELORS at law.

What you want to do is develop your skills as a highly trained counselor. It’s the counseling part of what you do that is what is going to get you well paid by happy clients.

When you can leverage technology to become the most efficient provider of documents and at the same time be a highly skilled and effective counselor who knows how to keep your clients out of court and out of conflict, you get to command premium fees and still be the most affordable solution for your clients.

That’s The Affordability Paradox in Action

And It’s the best thing ever! You get paid well, your clients get the most affordable and best outcome possible, and you never have to go to court, never have to sacrifice your life, work with horrible opposing counsel, and you get to love what you do.

And for those of you who see yourself as a ‘transactional business lawyer’…

…stop seeing yourself that way immediately!

Transactional business lawyers are easily replaced. No client needs you to incorporate their business. Or to create a contract. If they’re smart, they can do that themselves. Or at least they think they can. Or will think they can once LegalZoom’s marketing department gets to them.

What business owners do need you to do is educate them, advise them, partner with them, strategize with them, and be the voice of reason they likely do not have because they are too close to their business and dreams.

It’s your job to learn how to ask the questions no one else asks. It’s your job to know their industry even better than they do, so you can question their business model and help them to make it even better. Your job is to help them to crystallize their vision- and then make sure they have the legal, insurance, financial and tax systems to support their vision happening.

Most business lawyers have no idea how to do this. If you do, you’ve got a skill that you should be commanding premiums fees for, and my guess is that you are currently giving it away and selling your documents or your time, because that’s what the traditional legal model has taught us to do.

So, what do you need to do now?

  • It’s time make a major shift. Start valuing what’s valuable, and educating your prospects and clients to understand what I am sharing with you here.
  • It’s time for you to use the technology services, like RocketLawyer ($39.95/mo for most of the base documents you probably need to serve your clients), to provide documents efficiently and get paid for the counseling you offer.
  • It’s time for you to help your clients, referral sources, networking partners (and heck everyone!) understand that attempting to save money using cheap lawyers or online legal documents is likely going to be the most expensive option in the end.
  • It’s time to break free of the traditional law practice model that undervalues who you are, and what you do, and put in place the new law business model that returns you to your true place in the world.

It’s time to become the trusted advisor who makes a real difference in your clients’ lives and is paid well for it.

handshake over contractBy packaging your legal services to be worthy of your clients paying premium fees, and by providing so much value that hiring you results in your clients saving more than they paid you, and making more than they would have without you- YOU become the most affordable solution. And, in the best way possible.

Now, of course, that means you’ve developed the skills to do that. And, I hope you will, because it’s exactly what makes your law degree the most valuable asset you have.

 

 

 

About the Contributor
Alexis Neely is a bestselling author and has been a frequent guest on numerous network talk shows and news broadcasts. After graduating first in her law school class from Georgetown Law, Alexis clerked for Senior Judge Peter T. Fay on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and then began her career at the #1 AmLaw rated firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson. She went on to build her own law practice into a million dollar a year revenue generator within just three years by creating a revolutionary New Law Business Model you’ll hear about on the call. She is a leading expert on teaching lawyers how to attract more clients, engage those clients at higher fees,* and to serve those clients using this completely different law business model. Lawyers using Alexis’ systems report far more happiness, bigger bank accounts, and that they love being lawyers again.

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