Check out the slides from a webinar I gave yesterday for AVVO which provides the basics of unbundling legal services with ethics issues and best practices.
As the owner of a virtual law office for going on six years now I’ve heard multiple times from other attorneys that because I 1) use technology to delivery legal services to my clients, and 2) that I unbundle my legal services, that I am essentially nothing more than a solo mimicking LegalZoom.
I feel the need to put this assumption to rest yet again and not just for my own pride in my practice (as an aside I just received the Wilmington Parent Family Favorite Attorney Award for the 5th year in a row for my virtual law office), but because it’s critical that others in the legal profession get this distinction about what unbundling legal services means and how it can benefit our profession and the public.
Unbundling legal services is not limited to using document automation and assembly programs to deliver legal forms to consumers online. Unbundling is a complementary form of legal service delivery that may be used by traditional brick and mortar law practices, even those that focus on litigation, as well as truly web-based law practices and hybrid structures that combine the traditional law firm with a virtual delivery or communication component.
Most virtual law practices engage in some form of unbundling and most of that unbunding is the drafting of documents or legal research. However, unbundling is not limited to transactional matters. For example, other potential legal services that could be unbundled online or off include, but are not limited to the following:
– Advising on court procedures and courtroom behavior
– Coaching on strategy or role playing
– Conducting online depositions
– Providing legal guidance or opinions
– “Collaborative lawyering”
The traditional firm with a virtual law office may or may not then convert these unbundled clients into full-service clients after completion of the limited scope representation. There are many ways that unbundling legal services using technology might be integrated into different law firm structures, whether working with online clients or in-person clients or working with clients in both environments.
In providing these uniquely defined services, a law firm with a virtual law office can create a niche offering that helps them to stand out in comparison to the other online legal service offerings that may be only limited to document creation services with or without attorney review.
It’s not all about competing with the LegalZooms or other online services companies or even with other virtual law offices run by licensed attorneys. It’s about finding unique ways to unbundle the legal services that your client base is looking for and to combine it with your existing practice services – whether they are traditional, litigation-based and in-person full-representation, or completely via a secure client portal. There is certainly room in our profession for innovation that includes unbundling through the use of technology.
This is an important insight. Unbundling does just mean providing legal forms online. Unbundling together with online legal service delivery is simply adding to and expanding the richness of the client’s experience. Providing options for clients expands the market for a law firm and expands the lawyer’s reach.