Modern Law Forms- Why is providing legal forms to the public beneficial for lawyers or law firms? This is a four part series to explain why MLF is the future of law.
The beginning: Limited Scope Legal Services
In 2009, Richard Susskind wrote a book called “The End of Lawyers, Rethinking the Nature of Legal services”. He predicted that the legal profession was on the brink of a fundamental transformation driven by two key and irresistible forces:
- The Commoditization of Legal Services
- The IT revolution
Commoditization of legal services means that lawyers, and the public, should begin looking at legal services like legal products. We are either selling a unit of time (the billable hour) or a product like a pleading, or representation at a hearing. Commoditization means standardized, systematized, and packaging solutions so that what we are offering is more like a commodity.
The IT revolution has literally changed our culture and the way we look at information, shop for services and accept services. We are a culture of do-it-yourselfers. You tube can tell us how to install a dishwasher. Home depot offers workshops and utilizes the slogan “More Saving, More Doing”. For lawyers, this means we no longer hold all of the information. A person can go online and find almost any answer they are looking for, including case law and statutes. So, what is our value? We offer guidance, expertise, consulting, analyzing, strategizing and in court representation. Some people want to remodel their bathroom on their own and some want to hire a contractor. Home depot supports both type of consumers and so should we. THAT IS WHY LIMITED SCOPE LEGAL SERVICES ARE ESSENTIAL.
Anything that isn’t, “I’m your general practitioner,” means you are limiting the scope of your services. It really means carefully defining the scope of your services. What are you offering? A pleading? A unit of time? Representation at a particular hearing? Representation for a particular case or matter? In a transactional context this isn’t new or controversial, all estate planning attorneys offer limited scope representation when drafting a will or trust or power of attorney. In the litigation context, this is a much more recent, emerging and controversial practice. It is most prevalent in the area of family law.
Litigation can be broken down into criminal litigation, consumer litigation, business litigation and family law litigation. In criminal litigation, an attorney is provided. In many cases of consumer litigation like personal injury, social security disability, and others, attorneys work on contingency. In business or real estate litigation, the litigant can opt in or out. Most of the time they can weigh the pros and cons of the case and decide whether or not to participate. In family law, litigation isn’t really optional. If you have a child with someone, child support and parenting time are an issue. You can’t really avoid court. The state may file an action on its own behalf. With half of marriages ending in divorce, family law affects massive amounts of people. That doesn’t even consider children born out of wedlock. Another issue is that the cases or matters last forever! It isn’t unusual to have an active client over a 10 year period in family law.
No one has an unending budget to litigate for 10 years, yet families must protect and defend their interests. Limited scope work allows a litigant to better control their budgets and access attorneys at a reduced cost. It isn’t right for all clients or matters, but for many people, limited scope help is the answer to better prepare themselves and represent their interests.
More saving, more doing….limited scope services.
Next Segment: What’s in it for the lawyers?