May 19, 2017 Dialogue

Flat Fee Offerings: One Year Later

By Seth Chavez

It’s been just over one year since the Los Angeles County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service introduced specific flat flee offerings into the LRS model. Here, without a rule book, innovation can be bumpy, but it also has significant rewards.

The “art” of innovation starts with an idea and requires thoughtful execution, but its more important lasting qualities include adaptation to the model and to the market. Over the past year, the flat fee regimen has adapted nicely into the LRS model. Here, we’ve learned to work with lawyers on the panel within the context of specific flat fee offerings. As lawyering goes, “wait and see” is a commonly applied conservative approach. Here, many panel lawyers have been waiting and they have seen. Our initial roster of attorneys interested in specific flat fee offerings has expanded. Also, new attorneys have come to the LRS for the sole purpose of taking advantage of flat fee offerings.

With over one year of flat fee data to mull over, the specific offerings themselves have adapted as well. Marketing message intelligence has improved greatly. Using geographic data, we’re focusing region-specific messages on regions that include direct flat fee offering coverage for specific flat fee offerings. This helps us to boost flat fee performance in a way that encourages more lawyers to participate, and in a way that reduces marketing expenditures in regions that are less likely to be serviced. After all, this is Los Angeles; the closer the lawyer is to the client, the better our success ratio. With just a few months more of flat fee data, we will get even more lean and effective with this approach.

Additional flat fee offerings have also been integrated into the regimen. Several months ago, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy was added and that offering immediately became a top performer. The beauty of integrating this Chapter 7 offering is that it developed organically through interaction with attorneys participating in other flat fee offerings. Eventually, if we look at flat fee offerings as a product, they will be entirely market determined. (As an aside, this organic approach to product development is thrilling on a fundamental level. If LRS programs are sensitive to the marketplace and let the marketplace effect types of development, there is no stopping any LRS program from competing effectively in any market condition.)

Specific data related to each flat fee offering is especially encouraging. However, at this point, I wouldn’t characterize any of these flat fee offerings as “mature.” In a sense, individually, existing flat fee offerings have not yet fully adapted. Each specific offering is still scaling nicely. Until we start to see more normalized trend patterns, we haven’t hit the ceiling, based on market and marketing considerations. That being said, it’s clear to me that for the LACBA LRS, specific flat fee offerings are going to be a staple source of generating leads and revenue into the future. Here, this continued viability of specific flat fee offerings is perfectly sensible when we look at the marketplace for legal services where flat fee offerings are the gateway to so many initial client interactions.

Seth Chavez

Director of Lawyer Referral Services, Los Angeles County Bar Association

Seth Chavez is Director of the nation's largest lawyer referral service, founded in 1937 by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He also is director of Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Services at LACBA.