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Fool for a client

by Joe Kaczrowski | Sep 08, 2015

Why should someone hire a lawyer with so many cheap (or free) options out there? What is the value added from consulting a lawyer as opposed to using LegalZoom or something similar, or going the DIY route via Google? The most basic comparison people make, especially when options appear equivalent or at least comparable, is price. Lawyers may be able to compete on price, but really the better approach is to change the conversation.

Why should someone hire you? What do you offer that they can’t get from a piece of software or a book? The Minnesota courts have a number of pro se resources available, including forms. An earlier post noted that lawyers need to find a way to change the comparison from ‘apples to apples’ to ‘apples to oranges’ or ‘apples to steak’.

But even if you can differentiate your product or service so that the potential client is not merely evaluating the price differential, is that enough? A lawyer may be able to show a lot of value added through legal representation, but what if the potential client decides that he or she doesn’t need great but rather that ‘good enough’ will suffice? How do you respond when someone says, “Yeah, that is a much better service, and it’s worth more money, but I don’t need all that”? How do you explain the necessity of a lawyer-drafted will when the client just wants “all my stuff to go to my family” and thinks the intestacy statutes are good enough? And can you do that briefly and succinctly, and when the potential client is predisposed to choose another option?

While it may not occur to people who voluntarily chose to submit to 3+ years of law school, but cost vs. benefit or incremental gain is a fairly common business analysis, and 'good enough' is often a valid position.

As a lawyer, you are trained and competent to handle a number of different matters. And while some may choose to represent themselves (despite what the old adage says about a lawyer who represents himself), those in the profession often understand the complexities of the law and realize the value of a specialist and experience. How do you make that argument to a layperson? James Gempeler used an analogy to address that question in relation to criminal expungements. Most people can follow a recipe in a cookbook, but the outcome will be different when the meal is prepared by a professional chef.

What’s your answer to why someone should hire a lawyer? Send us an email (or a tweet) or feel free to discuss with your colleagues on the solosmall listserv (join here).