Who wants to pay $100 per hour or more for something that is not even fun? Paying $100 for an hour of bungee jumping sounds worthwhile because it creates a lifetime of memories. Still, no one likes the idea of spending triple digits to hear a lawyer tell them that the chances of a court awarding them alimony are slim to none. For whatever reason, sometimes it is easier to pay for services on a monthly basis, even if it adds up to the same amount of money. How many movies did you watch on Netflix this month? Only two? That is as expensive as if you had just rented VHS cassettes at Blockbuster! Did you really spend the equivalent of four McChicken sandwiches on a movie you only saw half an hour of before you fell asleep? From a vendor’s perspective, the subscription model is great because you just charge the client’s credit card every month without them having to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the item they are paying for is worth the cost. Legal subscription services are becoming popular with law firms of all sizes, as they offer convenience and ease of budgeting for clients and lawyers.
Offering legal services on a subscription model of payment is quite common in the field of corporate law. Big business clients tend to pay a monthly fee to a law firm, usually one with dozens, if not hundreds, of lawyers, to provide whatever legal services the business needs. It is the most straightforward option in terms of billing and payroll; otherwise, it would have to be the full-time job of an employee in the billing department to tally up which lawyers had spent how many hours doing work for the business client that month.
More recently, small law firms, and even solo practices, have been offering legal subscription plans for areas of law such as intellectual property, estate planning, and family law; subscription plans are also popular among small firms with a client base of small businesses. Subscription software applications like SimpleClient and Rocket Lawyer enable small and solo law firms to charge clients a monthly fee for unlimited (within reason) legal services. SimpleClient works directly with the law firm’s existing website to streamline payment by subscription.
Legal subscription plans work best when the client needs your services over an extended period, but the demand ebbs and flows during that period. Think about how the “hurry up and wait” of divorce cases stresses clients out. Part of that stress is that they get a bill for thousands of dollars and then spend the next several months biting their nails, wondering when the next four-digit bill is coming. With a subscription plan, they can pay the same amount of money every month, making the difference between thinking of legal services as a disastrous emergency expense and thinking of them as part of the monthly budget, like car insurance or a gym membership.
Best of all, the amount of money you get evens out, whether you charge by the hour or by the month. With a monthly subscription plan, you also do not have to deal with irate clients chewing you out about how you billed them for the 6.4 hours it took you to draft a document when a reasonable person would have been able to write the same document in 5.8 hours.
Lawyers in various practice areas have found that accepting payment on a subscription basis has been an asset to their law firms. Each law firm must make its own decision about what services to include in a basic subscription and what will require additional one-time charges or even a subscription upgrade. For example, an intellectual property lawyer may offer a basic subscription plan that includes unlimited legal advice, one document review per month, a monthly legal workshop, and an annual business assessment. For about four times the price, the law firm’s premium plan also includes a trademark search, a trademark application, unlimited cease and desist letters, a quarterly strategy session, and a quarterly project that varies depending on the client’s needs. The difference in price points of these packages reflects the difference between the profiles of clients who would need them; most clients that buy the basic package are individuals, while the subscribers to the premium plan are established businesses.
Your law firm, too, can find the subscription plans that work best for its clients. Which services you include and how much you charge will depend on your client base and practice area.