Have you ever tried to cook Thanksgiving Dinner without Power?
Thanksgiving is my favorite Holiday of the entire year. So, imagine my horror last Wednesday afternoon, when instead of starting to prepare a feast for 20, I was left wondering, what am I going to do if the power does not come back on?!?!?! It was about this time I received an email on my phone reminding me that I had promised the GLSA an article by the end of Thanksgiving Weekend. As I was calmly explaining to my wife that I could cook everything on the gas stove top, or the grill, or the propane flame used to heat the oil to deep fry a turkey (or heat water to make mashed potatoes – at least that was my theory), it was occurring to me that I had the perfect GLSA article developing right before me.
Why yes, in fact, trying to prepare a holiday meal, or any meal for that matter, without modern conveniences like electricity and indoor refrigeration, is a lot like trying to run a law practice without the benefit of having legal plan members as clients. Certainly, you can do it, but if there is a more effective way, why would you want to?
Legal plan clients are the perfect complement to any legal plan practice that represents mostly individuals. Legal Plans provide a steady stream of new clients for whom the attorney or firm did not need to advertise for or market to. Payment is guaranteed by the plan for covered services and for non-covered services most plans permit the attorney to charge their normal rates or close to it. Why wouldn’t a firm want a handful of additional clients per month? In fact, there are some practices where legal plan clients represent a substantial part of the practice, to the point that if the flow of legal plan clients slowed down, it would have a significant negative impact on the firm’s bottom line.
Doubters of the model, particularly from the law firm perspective, will say, that legal plans pay too little. Yes, it is true, legal plans generally pay less for covered services than the attorney can command on the open market for similar services. What is missing from that analysis, however, is what those fees are being compared to. These are clients that the firm literally paid nothing for in terms of lead generation. If the lead is free, why does the firm need to command the same fees in order to make the work profitable?
The other part of the equation that is often missed is one of volume. In most cases, your clients do not have more than one or two legal matters that need to be attended to at any particular time, and certainly, do not have a steady flow of new legal matters to send to the firm on a monthly or even annual basis. What if your client said to you, I am going to need “X” hours of legal work every month, or “X” number of standard documents every month and in exchange for the volume would your firm be willing to provide services at a discounted hourly or project rate? I dare say many firms would not be able to give a discount fast enough in exchange for guaranteed volume. Now clearly there are no guarantees about volume when working with the plans, but the concept remains the same.
I submit that legal plans are just starting to take hold in the United States. In fact, they are quite common in other parts of the world. As legal plans continue to grow, so does the need for quality attorneys to provide the representation contracted for by the plans. So, as you start to project and plan for the year ahead, I have two questions: If you are not taking legal plan clients, why not? And if you are limiting yourself to business from just a plan or two, why stop there?
Lastly, just in case any of you are wondering, I was thankful that the power eventually came back on and I was able to pull off a feast for 20 without a hitch!