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.)
Legal Subscription Plans–Overview
My non-legal advice is many small businesses can benefit from one of these services. However, you should understand the terms and service commitment before you purchase one. I like to divide subscription plan offerings into two main categories: (1) non-lawyers and (2) lawyers or law firms.
Non-Lawyer Subscription Legal
These plans are typically offered by large companies and offer inexpensive “insurance like” options. The biggest differentiator, these companies are not bound by legal ethics rules. They have sales teams, directly solicit for business, and make claims about their products. All things attorneys cannot do, due to ethical constraints. This also means, these companies cannot give legal advice.
The business model is simple. Consumers purchase a plan and then call a 1-800 number when they have a question. Since the company cannot provide legal advice, they then transfer the customer to a ‘networked’ law firm. The ‘networked’ law firm will then provide you with a consultation. If you need additional help, they may offer you a discounted legal fee. The consumer is never required to use this law firm, so they can go ‘outside network’ on their own dime. Note, some of these companies direct ALL of their calls to a single law firm within a state. This brings up some ethical issues (at least to the lawyers reading this).
Lawyers and Law Firms
A few lawyers and law firms are now offering legal subscription plans. These plans are typically rooted in the idea of making it easier for clients to estimate and predict legal costs. Since they are offered by attorneys, these plans typically include direct access to legal advice.
The format of these plans vary widely by practice area and by geographic location. As does the price for entry. Some of these services are designed in a way to provide a set number of hours of legal access per month. Others provide discounts on legal services. 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. Those who don’t spend a lot of time with their legal team or are willing to ‘risk it’.
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, these plans may offer some help at the onset. However, failing to create a solid advisory team often leaves a small business open for attack. In these non-lawyer plans, the attorney is being hired for a transaction and then moves on.
The lawyer type of plan, can be a great resource for a business ready to build its team of advisors. These plans can 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.
Businesses who place an emphasis on creating an advisory team (legal, accounting, financial, coaching, marketing, etc.) can greatly benefit from a subscription legal plan. Having an ongoing conversation with your legal team helps you avoid legal pitfalls. It also helps forge the relationship between advisor and client, thereby opening greater opportunities.
I hope this helps clarify some of the subscription legal plan options available to you and your small business. When you are ready to add a legal advisor to your team, we hope you’ll consider contacting Welch Law.