The Nontraditional Law Practice

A nontraditional law practice can be anything a lawyer wants it to be:

  • Hybrid or alternative fee arrangements;
  • Unbundling;
  • Virtual law practice;
  • Home-based practice;
  • All the above; or
  • Something else entirely

Hybrid or Alternative Fee Agreements (AFAs)

As more clients push back against the hourly rate model, lawyers are looking for unconventional ways to price legal services.  One of the most popular?  The hybrid or alternative fee agreement (AFA).

Before you enthusiastically embrace this option, read this post and make sure your AFA satisfies the 5 “C’s” test:

  • Clarity
  • Completeness
  • Compliant
  • Common sense
  • Can’t be excessive

Hybrid or alternative fee agreements are often combined with other elements of a nontraditional practice.  Used correctly, they can be a huge asset.

Unbundling: Have it Your Way

With unbundling, clients pick and choose discrete services from a menu of available choices:

Providing limited legal services is not a new concept. Transactional lawyers have long served in the role of document reviewer or preparer. So how is unbundling different? It takes the idea one step further by employing a team approach in which the lawyer and client decide who will do what based on the legal services required by the client’s case. The client takes a much more active role in the matter and often assumes responsibility for pro se court filings and appearances.

Keep in mind that unbundling has its risks: Unbundling in the 21st Century: How to Reduce Malpractice Exposure While Meeting Client Needs and its ethical limitations.  See Unbundling Legal Services: Limiting the Scope of Representation and The Ethics of Unbundling:  How to Avoid the Land Mines of “Discrete Task Representation.”

Virtual Law Practice or Home Practice?

A virtual law practice or virtual law office (VLO) is a term of art referring to online delivery of legal services through a secure client portal.  If you are interested in creating a VLO, Stephanie Kimbro’s book Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online is a must.  [Available on the ABA Web store here. If you are not an ABA member, save money at checkout by using the Professional Liability Fund’s (PLF’s) discount code OSBPLF.]  Also see this post about click wrap or click through fee agreements.

VLOs aside, most lawyers who express an interest in practicing virtually mean they want to work from home – due to economic necessity, personal choice, or both.  In next week’s post, I’ll discuss the nine steps to establishing a successful home-based practice.

[All Rights Reserved 2014 Beverly Michaelis]


The Best of – 60 Tips in 60 Minutes / 60 Sites in 60 Minutes

60 Tips/60 Sites is by far the most popular presentation at the 2014 ABATECHSHOW (SRO this year).  From our base in Oregon where Sheila Blackford and I held down the fort, I used Tweet Archivist to capture and curate the best of the best. (Plus a few other random tweets.)

  • RT @catherinereach: Better Pacer with @Inforuptcy and @PacerProCEO – @NextChapterBK
  • Need to reduce the file size? Try (Compress PDF – free online PDF compression service) – @catherinereach
  • Google Backup Options #ABATechShow @nerinopetro@bburney – via @DonPhilbin
  • If you press 4 during an incoming Google Voice call you can send it to VM and listen to it in real time! Via @j0eybagodonuts
  • Librarians developed engine to search the Deep (Dark) Web INFOMINE – via @DonPhilbin
  • @nerinopetro discussing video conferencing with Zoom.US May be a good alternative to GoToMeeting – @larryport
  • Boomerang for gmail allows you to write emails now and schedule to send them later. Nice! 60 Tips by @markrosch at #ABATECHSHOW – @rajuip
  • @nerinopetro likes the (VoiP/hosted) phone service vitality. #ABATECHSHOW pay as you go. Via @JLE_JD
  • Have your passwords been exposed? Check have I been pwned? – via @catherinereach
  • @nerinopetro says use to show who is tracking you – via @JLE_JD
  • Diane Ebersole says use Quick Parts. [The Quick Part Gallery in Word is a gallery where you can create, store, and find reusable pieces of content, including AutoText, document properties such as title and author, and fields.] #ABATECHSHOW > She’s absolutely right – via @JLE_JD RT @bschorr
  • I had no idea those Mophie external battery packs were that worthwhile – via @j0eybagodonuts
  • @bburney suggests #duckduckgo which doesn’t track you [anonymous way to search the Web] – via @JLE_JD
  • @bburney also likes [ makes it easy for people to learn about you and find your content. Create a free page in minutes with no coding required] – via @JLE_JD
  • Diane Ebersole likes text expanders [much of the text we type is repetitive; with text expanders the computer does the work for you] – via @JLE_JD
  • @nerinopetro suggests #trello [Trello is the fastest, easiest way to organize anything, from your day-to-day work, to a favorite side project, to your greatest life plans] – via @JLE_JD@bburney uses an add in for word called puretext some crazy short cut in mac also [Have you ever copied some text from a web page or a document and then wanted to paste it as simple text into another application without getting all the formatting from the original source? PureText makes this simple by adding a new Windows hot-key (default is WINDOWS+V) that allows you to paste text to any application without formatting] – via @JLE_JD
  • Sv600 contactless scanner [from Fujitsu] made @nerinopetro happy – via @JLE_JD
  • Great keyboard shortcut via @macsinlaw: In Word, select text and use Shift + F3 to cycle through capitalization options – via @j0eybagodonuts
  • Great productivity tool RT @JLE_JD: @nerinopetro likes the pomodoro technique for getting done – via @rocketmatter
  • Diane says use site: to limit search to domains or sites for google. I use this a lot – via @JLE_JD
  • 5 GREAT Google Searching Tips via @alcona67 Diane Ebersole – via @miunger
  • @nerinopetro making backups of backups with IFTTT … But, who will watch the watchmen?!? – via @rajuip
  • @nerinopetro says airserver is cool. I agree. For ipad sharing – via @JLE_JD
  • Google apps has added a research tool so you can search without leaving app @bburney – via @JLE_JD
  • @nerinopetro says use spike in msword [A Clipboard feature available in Word that lets you copy multiple selections of content to the Clipboard and then paste them as a group to a new location. It’s easy to use and allows for a bit more flexibility when the need arises] – @JLE_JD
  • A great tip from @markevans on site to fix awkward and convoluted writing [Hemingway App] – @AndrewLarmand
  • If you need to encrypt a network, Simek recommends SafeGuard by Sophos – via @kmontenegro
  • How about this for 60 sites: Turns browser tab into a convenient [quick-edit] notepad – via @tim_baran
  • Have you tried @insightlyapp for task mgmt @chadeburton? – via @antigonepeyton
  • @bschorr reviewing @Yammer – a secure tool for group conversations & collaboration within organizations – via @lucasboling
  • ChargeKey & ChargeCard are great for small, portable chargers per @themaclawyer – via @mrsmaclawyer

A complete 60 sites list is now available here.

But Hold On, There’s More…

Over the next few days, I will share 13 additional posts curated from the 2014 ABATECHSHOW.  So hang on to your seats, ladies and gentlemen!

  • Cool TECHSHOW Apps
  • Once You Go Mac, You Never Go Back
  • Quickie Tips and Tricks for iPhone and iPad
  • Getting the Most Out of Evernote
  • It’s Social Media, Not Anti-Social Media
  • Practically Perfect Presentations (Or: How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint)
  • You’re Sold on the Cloud – Now What?
  • Cyber Security: Horrifying Stats and Tips for Dropbox Users
  • Making Money: Maximizing the Business Side of Practicing Law
  • Still Pondering Paperless?
  • Crowdsourcing Legal Research with Casetext and Mootus
  • Legal Tech by the Numbers

[All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis 2014]

Using Google Voice in Your Law Practice

The February issue of Multnomah Lawyer, the official publication of the Multnomah Bar Association, has an excellent article by Charley Gee about using Google Voice.

As Charley describes:

Google Voice is a service from Google that provides a user with a telephone number, voicemail, conference calling, and text messaging service. It is accessible from any computer with access to the Internet, or from a cellphone or tablet.

The best feature of Google Voice is its price: free. Using your Google account, just sign up, select the number you want from a list of available numbers, and verify and connect your cell phone to the account.

Google Voice supports call routing, text message archiving, and voicemail to e-mail transcription.  (But not emergency service calls.)  If traveling, you can access voicemails and make calls without cell service:

Google Voice users can make and receive calls and text messages, as well as fetch their voicemail, over the internet instead of a cell tower signal. I’ve accessed my voicemail and text messages from remote locations around the state just by finding a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Great tip Charley!  My only caveat is to keep security risks in mind when using Wi-Fi.

If you are evaluating Google Voice vs. Skype, read this post.  For more thoughts on the benefits of using Google Voice in your law practice, check out what Go Matters has to say.

If you’ve committed to Google Voice and want to know about using it on your Android Phone or iPad, see:

How to Use Google Voice for Your Primary Android Phone Number and Messages or App Review: Google Voice for iPad.

Final Thoughts

I blogged earlier this month about how to cope with Gmail outagesGoogle Voice is tied to your Gmail account.  If Gmail goes down, Google Voice may also experience an outage.  Without a doubt, you will lose WiFi functionality, voicemail to e-mail transcription, and perhaps other features.  A cursory search did not return an answer to the question: How many times has Google Voice experienced an outage?  However, searching for “Google Voice outage” returns numerous results dating back the last few years.  Whether Google’s uptime stats are better or worse than the competition is hard to gauge.

Finally, I can’t write a post about Google Voice without expressing how much I like Ruby Receptionists, our very own home-grown virtual reception service based in Oregon.  Ruby Receptionists goes far above and beyond Google Voice, with the advantage of personalized, live reception services.  Read about this awesome service for lawyers here.  For another take, see this post.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

Phone Systems for Lawyers

Occasionally lawyers ask for recommendations on phone systems – should they invest in a PBX, go with VoIP, or a hybrid of the two?

Thanks to the ABA Site-tation we now have an excellent overview of these options and some helpful resources:

If you’re shopping for cheap/free resources that serve a mobile practice, consider Google Voice.  If you want the cadillac of virtual receptionists, please Call Ruby.  (I’m a long-time fan and was pleased as punch to see that I am not alone in this assessment.)