There has been some recent blog comments [See: Carolyn Elefant ‘s Blog  [about  the meaning of Robert Capps article  in this month’s WIRED Magazine, (September 2009) about the concept of "Good Enough",  "Good Enough" solutions, (when cheap and simple is just fine). , and my quote about how this concept applies to the legal profession.

When I was interviewed for the Wired Article, I didn’t know the focus of the article, and I was simply reporting my experience in offering limited legal services to consumers for a fee they can afford. I wasn’t saying at all that lawyer’s should do less competent or less excellent work. Rather I was thinking about how legal transactional events between consumer and lawyer can be restructured to get to the "good enough result" that many consumers seem to want.

My best example is one that I participate in daily, and which I mentioned in previous blog post. Divorcing couples opt for a quick settlement, even if they don’t get "every right" they are entitled to in the interest of reducing their legal fees and getting on with their lives.

Divorce lawyers can charge from $5,000 – $10,000 (low-end of fee schedule) for even a relatively simple divorce. case. The lawyers will say there are no simple divorce cases. But that is from the the viewpoint of the lawyer. From the consumer point of view, they have a choice to spend $5,000 for each counsel who is representing either party- or to take the money and use it to get on with their lives. The question is–  what is the ROI from the consumer’s point of view?  Sometimes the investment of $5,000.00 in legal fees is worth it. ($5,000.00 is really a low end estimate). Consumers don’t think so, or there would not be thousands of pro se litigants representing themselves in family court. Pro Se Representation is a good example of a restructuring of the lawyer/client relationship to get a "good enough result." The success of LegalZoom –  admittedly a service which is a very small step above a bare legal forms service is more evidence of consumer preferences.

So is the movement towards "limited legal services." Lawyers, mostly solos and small law firms, that think that otherwise and think that full service representation is the only way to go are not facing consumer reality. These lawyers are living in a dream world.

Consumers want solutions to their legal problems. If they can get legal solutions in a different form than a traditional legal service from an attorney that is "good enough" at much less cost, they will turn away from the legal profession and seek those alternatives if they get a result that satisfies their expectations. 

 

  • Divorce lawyers are overpriced dinosaurs. Mediation is the answer. Try me.

  • Unbundling legal services … or providing legal services billed by specific task on a spectrum until the client gets the result he/she is willing to accept … will, indeed, impact costs of representation to be paid by the client. The competing interests are the result the client wants and protection from malpractice claim that the lawyer wants. Until the lawyer can educate the client about what is at stake for the client and the cost to achieve the client’s goal, the two parties will be at an impasse. Communication, including budgeting for each matter for clients’ approval, seems to be the most favorable answer to this impasse.

  • Reality

    Ed gets it right. The problem is that clients generally are not sophisticated enough to determine what risks they are taking or strategies to avoid risks. This is why you still need the lawyer. Our job is risk assessment. Not documentation experts. There are some matters where this is not true, but I always tell people you are taking a huge risk by not having at legal one lawyer look over what you are doing- even at a reduced cost. My example is of a client right now who thought he could address his trademark issues through LegalZoom. He did not get the trademarks, and, is now wondering why? I pointed out to him that the practice of obtaining trademarks is not merely about filling out the forms, and he seemed surprised. The problem is expertise. Can cost be reduced. Yes. Can we reduce this to forms? I think the danger of doing that is that the risk is too high. Forget malpractice, thinking of the client- they are no in the position to assess whether they are taking on acceptable risk, and they can lose out more by making what are uninformed choices. The issue is how to bridge the divide rather than how to eliminate lawyers from the process.

  • mike

    I think “good enough” has a bad connotation but the meaning/idea of it is all positive and a winning concept. I think its just a matter of someone coming up with a more appealing term. Actually, I am sure someone has.