From non-lawyer mega-companies to local law firms, legal subscription plans are adding value to businesses across the country. They come in many forms and at various price points. So, what are they exactly and should you get one? (Note, inherent bias acknowledged: Welch Law provides several affordable Subscription Plan options for small businesses, you can check them out here.)
My non-legal advice is that many small businesses can benefit from one or more of these services, but you should understand the terms and service commitment before you enter into one. Personally, I like to divide these subscription plan offerings into two main categories: (1) non-lawyers and (2) lawyers or law firms. Doing so makes it easier to differentiate the customers options and levels of service they can expect to receive in return.
- Non-Lawyers: these plans are typically offered by large companies and offer inexpensive “insurance like” options. These companies are not bound by legal ethics rules, which is why they have sales teams, can directly solicit, make claims about their products, and cannot give legal advice. The general idea is that you purchase the product and when you have an issue you call a 1-800 number and talk to a call monitor who will direct your call to a ‘contracted law firm’. That law firm will then provide you with a timed consultation and offer you a discounted rate on their normal legal fees if you choose to go forward with their representation. Note, some of these companies direct ALL of their calls to a single law firm within a state which brings up some ethical issues (at least to the lawyers reading this).
- Lawyers and Law Firms: Bound by their state’s legal ethics rules and the state bar (so you won’t see them soliciting sales or making promises), offer clients and customers various programs that provide clients access to their services. These vary widely by practice area and by geographic location. The price points on these plans fluctuate greatly as well. Some of these services are designed in a way to provide a set number of hours of legal access per month, some provide discounts on other services, and some are designed more like “retainer” agreements where a client pays for “X” number of hours each month and they roll over month-to-month. Because of the many ways in which these plans will differ from law firm to law firm, it is important to carefully review the plan and understand its terms before you sign up.
Which plan is right for my company? Only you know, but here are some quick thoughts:
Typically, the non-lawyer type of plan is a great starting point for individuals and/or business owners who don’t spend a lot of time with their legal team or are willing to ‘risk it’ based on their own web searches. For the individual, a simple call service plan may be a great starting point to a more permanent solution (i.e. I would like to get a divorce, call, quick answers, and then hire the firm or find another lawyer in the community). For business owners, failing to create a relationship between the lawyer and business opens up the possibility for holes in advice and failure by the attorney to see other potential liabilities. Essentially, the attorney is being hired for a transaction and then moves on.
The lawyer type of plan, can be a great compliment to a business that values having a trusted legal advisor/team in their corner and would like to minimize the traditional hourly billing cycle of many law firms. Assuming you are obtaining a subscription plan from a lawyer/law firm that you want to create an ongoing relationship with, this should build greater trust and continuity between the lawyer and client. (see more on selecting a lawyer here.) We recommend this type of plan for business owners because of the complex legal nature of running a business.
In my experience, businesses who place an emphasis on creating an advisory team (legal, accounting, financial, coaching, marketing, etc.), are tired of spending hours on the web looking for a possible legal answer, and desire more frequent and ongoing interaction with their lawyer benefit greatly from the plans we offer.
I hope this helps clarify some of the subscription legal plan options available to you and your small business. If you are ready to add a business lawyer to your team, contact Welch Law and learn more about our services.