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Local Law Firm is Reinventing the Legal Services Model
Companies like LegalZoom.com and RocketLawyer.com are forcing one firm to re-think old norms.
No Charge for Standard Forms. “Most business owners are frugal,” said Aaron Hall, attorney at the Twin Cities Law Firm. ”Many saw little difference between cheap legal forms online and documents drafted by a lawyer.” “We decided to undermine legal form websites and give our forms away for free,” explained Hall. ”We won’t let cheap legal forms compete with the value provided by lawyer: legal advise and customized contracts for complex deals.”
Giving Away Expertise. For the public, the firm answers legal questions for free at MinnesotaLawyer.com. At MinnesotaAttorney.com, the firm offers over 1,000 legal guides, forms, and articles on Minnesota law topics. ”Some say we shouldn’t give away knowledge because selling knowledge is our business,” explained Hall. “But we believe that by offering free knowledge to the public, we will be seen as a resource when people are facing serious problems they cannot solve themselves.”
Other Alternative Approaches. For its business clients, the firm offers flat fees, quotes in advance, and other alternatives to the traditional hourly fee structure. Clients get their attorney’s direct cell phone numbers for immediate, anytime access. The firm is generally paperless and its software is entirely in the cloud. The means attorneys have access to all client data while at their client’s office, at home, on the attorney’s smart phone, or at the treadmill computer in the office.
Unusual Staff Perks. The firm provides free lunches and food for its staff all day long. It has a desk on a treadmill for employees who want to stay fit at work.
Re-thinking Attorney Compensation. What may be most striking is the firm’s compensation system for attorneys, which the attorneys created themselves. Attorneys receive one-third for acquiring clients and one-third for the work they do, leaving one-third to cover overhead. What’s missing is the legacy partner overhead that absorbs profits in most forms. “Our attorneys created this model based on the idea that those who do the work should receive most of the money, allowing us to attract top talent from top firms,” added Hall. The firm is doing just that, attracting attorneys with experience clerking for top judges (including the Minnesota Supreme Court) and from top firms like Faegre and Meagher & Geer.
“The practice of law is evolving,” concluded Hall. “To grow, law firms need to adapt to client and employee needs, not cling to irrational traditions.”
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