A Discussion with the Founder of Unbundled Legal Services, Forrest “Woody” Mosten: Exploring the History and Exciting Future of Unbundling
This most recent podcast episode with Forrest “Woody” Mosten has been a long time coming and we couldn’t be more pleased to finally have him on the show. The complete transcription of the episode follows our brief comments below.
During the episode, we decided to create a post containing all the resources that were mentioned in the interview, as well as create a place where you can comment with any additional resources you would like to suggest.
This post will likely be a helpful resource, as will the transcription of our interview with Woody below.
However, we want to be clear that in our opinion the best place to get all the latest updates, ethics opinions, links to video and audio trainings, events, podcast episodes and everything else related to unbundled legal services is the Unbundled Resource Center, which was created by the ABA Standing Committee for the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services.
So before you comment or add a resource here, you might want to check the Unbundled Resource Center first because odds are they have it linked there.
That said, here are all the resources that were mentioned in the episode:
- The Neutral Zone
- #unbundlenow (Twitter)
- Dave Gross’s Podcast (Limited appearances)
- Thomas King’s Podcast (Offering unbundled and limited appearances in traditional courts)
- Unbundling Resource Center – ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services
- Forrest Mosten’s Article – Unbundled Services to Enhance Peacemaking for Divorcing Families
- IAALS – Materials from Better Access Through Unbundling Conference
- Forrest Mosten’s Website
- Forrest Mosten’s Book: Unbundled Legal Services: A Family Lawyer’s Guide
- AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts)
- Building a Successful Unbundling Practice Training – March 5-6th, 2018 in Chicago, IL
To add a suggested resource (book, website, organization) simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post and we will add it to the blog post over time. We hope you find these resources helpful.
Dave Aarons: It is with a great excitement and anticipation that we are going to be having this discussion with Forrest Woody Mosten. I know him as Woody. He’s, as many of you know, one of the pioneers of unbundled legal services. Basically was the founder of it in a way. The idea. The word. The concept. He shares the Genesis story of unbundled legal services on this interview. We cover the gamut from the different types of options that attorneys can offer from a perspective that I think is a little bit different than we’ve ever heard on this podcast. So we cover a lot of that.
We talk about some of the main leadership in unbundled legal services. Some of the things we need to overcome. Some of the things he’s most excited about nowadays in the developments in the state bars, in the law schools. We really are going to have a round-two coming up at the beginning of next year. Because we just didn’t have time to even cover some of the most exciting developments that we discussed at the Better Access Through Unbundling Conference that occurred a week ago, as of this recording, in Denver. Which, was one of the first conferences about unbundled legal services in over a decade.
So I’m just so excited to have him on here and for you to get to know Woody as we’re certainly going to stay in touch with him and unroll as much training and resources as possible to make your job easier and more effective at delivering unbundled legal services in your practice and for years to come.
One other thing that came out of this interview is a great deal of resources. Links to the standing committee on the delivery of services. All kinds of training that have become available linked to Forrest Woody’s book. A training that’s coming up in Chicago. A lot of other things as well. We’re also going to be creating a blog post, which will be a resource post on all things unbundled legal services that you can contribute to. So you can go to our blog, look for that resource post. I’m going to link to it right in the show notes on this episode. You can leave comments with any other resources that should be included in that post and we’ll just continue to edit based on the comments and add to that resources post. So that anyone that’s at any level of delivery of unbundled services can get more resources and training as it becomes available.
So I just really appreciate Woody’s time in coming onboard to share the whole story of unbundled services and I hope you get a lot out of it. So with that, we’ll go right into it. This interview with Forrest Woody Mosten. One of the pioneers of unbundled legal services.
Dave Aarons: Woody, welcome to the show.
Forrest Mosten: Thank you. Thank you very much, Dave.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. It’s a real privilege to be having this conversation with you and to have met you at the Better Access Through Unbundling Conference last week. You’ve certainly been a pioneer in the industry and in raising awareness about unbundled legal services across the legal industry. It couldn’t be a more well-timed conversation to be having, and discussion, given what’s happening in the marketplace with access to justice. I just want to thank you for the work you’ve done and really appreciate you taking the time today to have this discussion with us.
Forrest Mosten: Totally my pleasure, Dave.
Dave Aarons: Okay, so I thought a good place to start, I am sitting here with some popsicle sticks wrapped in a blue piece of string. So I was wondering if you could share with us what words are written on these popsicle sticks. Maybe give a little background on how these popsicle sticks became part of your toolkit.
Forrest Mosten: Do you have a preference as to which one I start with?
Dave Aarons: I do not. No. You can just dive into whatever ones.
Forrest Mosten: Okay. Let me tell the story, and then we’ll go into how I use them.
Dave Aarons: Okay.
Forrest Mosten: For those people who are listening and have, at least, a familiarity with unbundling. It’s a consumer-oriented way of giving the client more control at lower costs and with no loss of quality of services in a variety of ways.
The way that it came about is that in 1988 I was actually the Assistant Regional Director for Consumer Protection for the Federal Trade Commission. It’s a big title but what it basically means is I supervised 16 lawyers that did various investigations where there were various consumer problems. And one of the investigations that I was supervising was the problem with people who wanted to sell their own homes and how could they find buyers. In the marketplace, at that time there were unbundled groups of businesses who basically provided self-help services for these homeowners. They provided flags. Directions on how to do open houses. They provided documents that a seller could use for a contract and other instructions, how to fix up their house, that would maximize the sales price.
The one thing they couldn’t do was get them a buyer. But there was another source of getting buyers. That was a basic profession of real estate brokers. Real estate brokers had something, at that time, called multiple listing services. They still have them I think in many communities. Zillow has replaced some of that function. But it was essentially a list at that time. Then it morphed into a website of properties for sale. And in order to get on that, the list you had to be a real estate broker. Real estate brokers charged 6% of the sales price. Many people didn’t want to pay that 6%. They liked this idea of buying a $500 package from Help-You-Sell and then paying the broker to get on the multiple listing services. Most brokers said, “Forget about it. I want my 6%. I won’t deal with you self-helpers.”
There were a few maverick brokers. Just like a few unbundling attorneys that we’re going to lead into this. And these maverick brokers said, “Look, pay me $200 or $300 or $400. Whatever it might be. I’ll get you to the multiple listing services. It’ll have my name on it. When a buyer sees your house, I won’t charge you a commission. I’ll just give them the address. They can come over and you can handle it yourself.”, Well, sellers loved this and other brokers hated it. Now, by the way, you can substitute brokers for lawyers and we have a modern story.
But in any event, in those days the brokers then went rabid. They started to punish these maverick brokers. Throwing them out of the real estate associations. Revoking their right to go on the multiple listing services. There were a lot of consumer complaints about that because it was hurting the public. It was depriving them of the source of buyers. So that’s how, as a Federal Trade Commission official, I got involved in unbundling. No, remember that’s 1988. In 1989, I went back into practice. I was doing family law and mediation. In 1991, I was appointed by the President of the American Bar Association to be on the standing committee of … actually, it wasn’t just standing committee then. It was a committee of delivery of legal services. By the way, it’s a great story how I got on that committee but I’ll save it for now.
In any event, that committee was studying self-represented litigants in divorce. There had been a study commissioned by two academics for the Maricopa County Phoenix area. They had a high number of self-representers in that area. They studied these self-represented litigants and found that many of them were very capable of handling parts of the job themselves. But with a little bit of help, they would do much better.
I’m sitting in a committee meeting and all of a sudden I remembered the real estate brokers. I said, “What if lawyers unbundled their services?” And then other members of the committee looked at me as if I were mad and asked what did I mean? I tried to explain it. Over the course of several months we discussed unbundling. Then I rolled it out with some conference presentations and some articles. That’s where the sticks come in. So this is a long answer to your very short question. But I’m ready for the sticks now if you are.
Dave Aarons: Absolutely. I appreciate you giving the background we were certainly going to cover the story because a lot of attorneys that have been offering unbundled legal services have been curious about how did this come about. So I appreciate you giving some context and some background there. Yeah, why don’t we take a look at the different factors on the popsicle sticks and we can expand that from there.
Forrest Mosten: All right, so I didn’t dare roll this out in the United States because I didn’t have enough clothes to take care of the tomatoes that might have been thrown at me. So I had a friend who was an innovator in Australia. There was a family law conference in Australia. He called me up. Actually, I don’t think he called in those days. I think it was a letter by snail mail. He said something like, “Would you come out to Australia and say what’s new in the United States?” And I wrote him back and I said, “Well, this is so new nobody’s doing it yet. I just thought of it. But are you interested?” And he goes, “very interested mate. Would love to have you come.”
So I turn to my wife, who used to be on Madison Avenue. She was a creative director for a major advertising agency. I said, “Jodie I’ve got a problem for you. This idea of unbundling is simple and it’s complex. I want to make it simple. I want to be able to explain to people who have never heard of it before in a clear and visual way. I would like something light so we don’t have luggage that would be overweight. I want it cheap so it doesn’t break our pocketbook. I want it tactile. And I want it clear.” And in about 15 seconds … that’s why she was the vice president of advertising, she goes, “Popsicle sticks and yarn.” I said, “What?”
She said, “I know from your writing that there are seven services that lawyers offer. They offer it as a full-service package. Why don’t we write the name of each of those services on a separate stick? And then bind those sticks together with a little piece of yarn. The whole thing will weight under three ounces. We can do it for as many people as there are in the conference, and everybody will have a goody bag. Everybody will have their own little prop. They will be able to play with it in the way that they think. So, what do you think Woody?” I said, “Brilliant! Why do you think we’re together?” She then asked how many people are going to be at the conference. I said, “Only 200.” So how’s your math? 200 people times seven sticks is 1,400 sticks. So Jodie wrote every one of those services on every stick. Bound them together. Put them in a little plastic bag and we were off to Australia.
Well it was a big, big hit because not only could I show everybody the full-service package. I said they may not unwrap it yet. It’s a full-service and I explained how that is the way that lawyers worked in the family law field. Part of the full-service package was the retainer. Why did we have a retainer? That’s because we didn’t trust our clients to pay us because they ran out of money often. The lawyer did all of those services and the client paid the bill or didn’t pay the bill as the case may be. People would start to unravel the yarn. I said, “No, no. You may not unwrap it yet. We’re not ready.” Then I said, “Now we’re ready to unwrap the yarn.” And by the way maybe if some of the people who are on this call or podcast will one day come to a training, maybe we’ll get them their own sticks. Okay, Dave? So we’ll think about that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, we’ll talk about the training that’s coming up in March here a little later int eh episode to make sure they have that opportunity.
Forrest Mosten: But we’re not promising sticks. This is a different kind of training. So I don’t want to promise that they’ll get their sticks there. Maybe your company, in fact, will go into the stick manufacturing business. We’ll discuss that as well. So I said, “Okay now it’s time to unwrap. Because you know what? This isn’t working. Lots of people are not using lawyers. They’re too expensive. They can’t afford the entry barrier of the retainer. They want to have more control over their lives. They can do it and they just want a little bit of help. So they want to unbundle.” So I said, “Okay, take off the yarn and spread the sticks onto your desk but don’t let them touch. They’re discrete tasks. A consumer can pick each of the sticks alone or in combination. But there is one stick that is the foundational stick of all the services. Can you guess, which one it is Dave?” I’m sure you know.
Dave Aarons: Advice.
Forrest Mosten: Advice. Exactly right every single service has advised as part of it. So you couldn’t just take one stick. Well, you could take one if it’s only advised. But if you want any other service to advise has to go with it because that’s the real benefit that people get. They get a chance for a professional lawyer experienced lawyer to give good advice and helpful tips, and good judgment along with the tasks that they may do themselves, or they may have a lawyer do. Then I went through each of the other six services. Then went through a number of the ethical issues and the practice issues. I think it was a very successful conference except there was a problem. There was a spy there. The spy was from England. He actually was visiting Australia at the time. He was from the Law Society in London.
He said, “Woody would you like to come to London to speak at a legal access conference?” I said, “Sure I love London.” I had gone to university there and have lots of friends there. I said, “So how many people are going to be there?” He said, “500.” I said, “No problem.” So I went to Jodie and I said, “Jodie I got good news and bad news. The good news is we’re going to London. We get to see some plays. See friends. And I’m going to be keynoting a conference.” She goes, “What’s the bad news?” I said, “3,500 sticks.” Seven sticks times 500. Doesn’t require a noble prize in mathematics.
So we needed help. Jodie, of course, came up with it. She, first of all, did a … we automated and she got a stamp for each of the services. No more writing. So we invested I’m sure, $10 into stamps. And we needed labor. We had constricted labor right at home. We had a 12-year-old and a nine-year-old. They were put into harness. They watched a little more TV. But while they watched TV they stamped sticks and assembled them. So when we went off to London we had 3,500 sticks. It was also a success.
People from that day still talk about the sticks. That’s why at the conference here in 2017 I decided … just a retro look at where we’ve been in unbundling we bring out the sticks for maybe an encore performance.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Exactly. They are really tactile too. I think looking at them and the different type of discrete tasks that they represent it could cede some ideas. Even a lot of attorneys that we’re working with that offer unbundled services to think about unbundling a little bit differently. Because a lot of attorneys are thinking about it like document preparation and coaching and advice. So those too. But there’s a lot of others here that can be looked at as discrete or unbundled tasks that could be delivered in and of themselves. We had Anthony Sanders, one of our provider attorneys out of Salt Lake City on an episode two episodes ago called the “Try It Before You Buy It Enrollment Strategy.” Basically, he had 20 plus unbundled service options that he offered, which contained a lot more of these unbundled discrete tasks.
Why don’t we just kind of go through each one? Then we can talk a little bit about each one. Then we can start to expand into where we stand in unbundled services today.
Forrest Mosten: Be glad to do that. In fact, what I’m doing as we’re talking I’m going to send you a copy of these sticks. A picture. Oh, actually there are pictures up on the Twitter, aren’t there? So you can get them right off of that. Anyone who wants to look at the conference it’s #unbundlednow and you can see the comments of the people at the conference. And the sticks have two or three pictures of them right there. So start anywhere you want Dave.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. So you can just go through them just real briefly. Just run through them. Then maybe we can talk about how this informs some possible new options in which attorneys could offer unbundled.
Forrest Mosten: Okay. Let’s actually start with Advice. Let’s not go past that because I will bet that there are many unbundling attorneys who don’t make the advice part of it a stand-alone service, and advertise it and market it as such. As an assessment service, as a consultation service, as a planning service. To be able then to have no other work that may be done. And maybe they’ll choose not to do any other work. You may be out there and say look, “I just really like talking to people. Helping them plan. Helping them have informed consent. Make a good decision, and then if they actually want work I’ll refer it to somebody else. Or someone else in my office.” And you say, “Well, nobody would do that.”
Well, at the conference I talked about two lawyers who do that and are doing quite well thank you. One is Brian Burk in Santa Barbara. Another is Ron Owski who actually does other services, but he has something called a Divorce Advisor Service where people come in and do an incredibly … they get a wonderful information. That is the most powerful thing that we can offer the consumer is information.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. We had Joel Harris from Canada I think there as well who just focuses his practice-
Forrest Mosten: Yes. Joel Miller does that.
Dave Aarons: Joel Miller, excuse me.
Forrest Mosten: But he also does other things as well. He’ll coach them on negotiation. He will help them draft documents. I think it’s great. They can make whatever decision they want. Now you also may have lawyers listening here who want to work in an interdisciplinary team. So that when someone comes in they get an assessment, strategy, and planning. Not just from a lawyer but maybe from a mental health professional or a financial professional. And the neutral zone in Toronto is a wonderful, wonderful service where when someone comes in they get an interdisciplinary team.
So I guess my first thought for everyone doesn’t short-change advice on its own. It is the key. Thinking about having a stand-alone service of consultations may differentiate you from other lawyers. I’m not talking free. I’m saying you get paid whatever you decide is a fair price for that time. Do you have any questions about that or should I move on to the next service?
Dave Aarons: No I think that’s a valuable insight for attorneys to think about as well. You know, most often attorneys may be trying to unbundle with document preparation or the specific task being delivered. That’s really viable. That’s certainly one of the tenants of unbundled services. But just starting to think about well the other option is in the phone consultation you can just say, “Why don’t you come in? We’ll spend an hour or spend two hours. And let’s just talk about everything that needs to be done on the case.” And just give advice to the client as a stand-alone as opposed to individual tasks as well.
I think what I’ll do, Woody, with your permission, is just kind of layout these other discrete tasks on the sticks and then you can comment about any of the others that you like. Does that work for you?
Forrest Mosten: It does. Let me just finish something about the advice though. One of the first unbundled services, and probably the biggest ever in history was started by someone you saw at the conference, Dave. His name is Wayne Moore. He developed a hotline for the elderly at AARP. The biggest interest group in the United States. They have more people than any other group. It was 40 million the last time I checked. It may even be more now. That was at $20 a piece for a year. That was what I checked last time. It may not be current.
So what happened in this hotline, and some of you might be thinking of doing this yourself, is they just call up for a question. They don’t have to do anything more. And you can charge them by the minute. You can charge them by a flat fee up to a particular amount of time. You can do it any way that is consumer accepted and that is laid out in a fully disclosed way. So I just wanted to say it doesn’t have to be an office call. It could be an e-mail consultation. It could be a phone consultation or a video consultation is another way. The people out there are much better at the technology than I am. I’m a horse and buggy kind of unbundler. I’m more of the phone and in-person kind of lawyer.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. You know, of course, we have tons of attorneys on this podcast that are utilizing technology and the streamlining document preparation. So plenty of interviews that you can all tap into if you want to learn more of the new-school Tesla version of delivering unbundled services in a more efficient streamlined fashion. But you’re a perfect example and perfect embodiment that it actually doesn’t have to be that complicated. It can just be one hour at a time, in-person, belly-to-belly as an unbundled discrete task simply advising the client. And then we’ve got other types of tasks. I’ll go through them.
Discovery. Providing discovery.
Forrest Mosten: Can I change the word discovery for you?
Dave Aarons: Yes.
Forrest Mosten: That’s just getting facts that the other side has. See one of the things that we need to do as unbundled lawyers do simultaneous translation between our jargon and what people need. If the other person has facts that we need to have. Or documents. That’s what we do. We don’t have to necessarily make it formal and have interrogatories or document requests. It could be just a conversation or a letter that says, “You know, it would really help me in settling this matter if I knew x.” Okay? So there are two sticks. One is discovery. That’s facts from the other side. And I have “Gather facts” which is the name of a stick. And that’s from your own client. What do you need to know that can help your client? That the client either knows herself or can get the documents and the facts fairly easily.
So we’re talking about one of the things about unbundling is it’s always been seen as a companion to litigation and the client being able to go into court. I’d like the people on this call to think about it as more of a coaching peacemaking role. A way of helping people solve their problems well short of court. That’s one of my goals in developing this concept. There’s an article that I wrote for the Family Court Review called, “Enhancing Peacemaking Through Unbundled Legal Services,” and I can talk more about that later or another time Dave.
So another stick is Research. My view of that is if there’s any task that lawyers are much better able to do that consumers it’s really thorough research. Particularly on motions and appellate work and things like that. On the other hand, many times information is very available through public sources and through Google. That the lawyer might just point the client on how to do it and the client can do it herself. So that’s a type of service that you can offer. I find that there’s … as I said, two ways of handling it. One it’s very lawyer intensive. Or it could just be that you point the client to the right direction.
Then the one I think is the most important is Negotiate. Negotiate could be where you’ve coached the client on how to do negotiation with the other side. Doing a late negotiation at Starbucks or a table top, a kitchen table negotiation in their home. And you actually help plan out what your client … how your client gets the other side literally to the table. What your client asks for and how he asks for it. That is really valuable.
The other thing is what you can do to simulate or kind of practice the coaching. And you can do that with or without a video camera. So I can go into more detail, but I’m just going to leave it there.
Then, you have Drafting. Now it says “Draft Documents” and many lawyers think, “Oh yeah there are court forms. We can help clients fill them out.” Well, I want to start well before a court form. What about letters? What about notices? Well short of ever going into the courthouse.
And there are two basic ways that lawyers can draft letters. One is ghostwriting them for the client. You as a lawyer can write it. The client just puts it on her own stationary or her own e-mail, and the client and the other side never knows that you were ever there. Unless the letter is so much better than what your client has ever done that it’s pretty obvious.
A second way, and this had probably more buzz than anything else I said at the unbundling conference, was that people can pay for your letterhead. You can write a letter as a lawyer and limit your scope just to the letter. So you can indicate what your client wants and say, “We would like a response that would go directly to the client. If yous end it to me I will forward it to the client. I will not respond to you. I have been hired only to write this letter.” Now later the client may bring you in and convert the scope of the service to have you do negotiation too. But this is how you can start small and then if it gets the job done the client doesn’t have to expand. If it doesn’t get it done then you are available to do later work.
Dave Aarons: I’ll jump in real quick there and just … If you don’t mind.
Forrest Mosten: Sure, please.
Dave Aarons: On the letter. I spent a lot of time working the legal access plan business and one of the things that, for example, Legal Shield plan includes. And many of the other plans is a letter or phone call from the attorney as an included benefit in their legal plan membership. This was a benefit that a lot of people who were enrolled in the legal access plan got a lot of results from. I’ve actually used that feature of my legal plan, which is till have with them, many times. You know sending a letter to a cell phone company that’s been uncooperative. Sending a letter to landlords and tenants with the letterhead of the attorney on that. Outlining what the laws are and making a clear demand for return of a deposit or whatever it might be. Then there’s obviously applications in family law as well. Maybe you could just briefly give an example of a letter you could write in either a custody, visitation, or divorce type of scenario that you found to be particularly effective. Just to highlight that option.
Forrest Mosten: Well, just a very simple one. In California either party has the right to ask for the tax return of the other party every year to find out if they’ve made more or less money and to exchange those. So some judgements have that in it. And others don’t. That’s a perfect example of how the client can say, “Okay, help me write the first letter. And then if it doesn’t get a response why don’t we put your letterhead on the second one?” So it’s using the least invasive intervention at all times.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Exactly. And then having it go more invasive from there. So maybe having them write it themselves, and then from there perhaps being something where your letterhead is getting involved because there’s some implications when you receive a letter from an attorney. And that’s the assumption that the other party believes, “Okay, well now they have an attorney. Now I need to get an attorney involved.” And that can escalate the conflict in an issue as opposed to keeping it peaceful.
Forrest Mosten: That’s exactly right. That’s why it’s a later resort as opposed to a first intervention. At the same time, sometimes a client just doesn’t get any respect. Just doesn’t get an answer. So this might let them know somebody’s watching.
Dave Aarons: Exactly. Okay. And then why don’t we cover the last stick here.
Forrest Mosten: Well, court representation I should say was not part of my concept when I first developed it. I had a sense that up to court people could be coached. Once they went to court they either handled it themselves or they handled it with a full-service lawyer. Well, how wrong was I? And who made me wrong? Judges. Because judges every day are flooded with unrepresented litigants how to make an absolute mess of their own court representation. And that if they could have help just for a temporary hearing. Or just for one issue and they could maybe handle everything else themselves. And so judges, when a pro se would come in would often look around the courtroom and see a lawyer waiting and say, “Oh, okay Mr. Aarons. How would you like to help Mr. Jones?” And you could say, “Oh no. I really wouldn’t judge.” Or “I’d be glad to help.” But one of the things that you’d want is, “This will be it though the judge, right? Today’s hearing. I’m not on the hook anymore.” And judges wanted to give you that assurance. Because otherwise, you wouldn’t do it.
That started these limited court appearances. For those lawyers who were listening. Who litigate. This is an incredible source of income for you. It’s something that the people need. Now I don’t do it because I don’t go to court for anything. I told the conference I’ve been sober for nearly 20 years. I never go to court. If find that I make much more money, my practice thrives much better when I am a peacemaking office lawyer.
But you may not have made that choice yet out in podcast land. And if that’s the case you may choose to offer this service of limited scope representation in court.
The other way of doing court representation is literally to coach. Where you don’t make the appearances but you coach the client to make it for herself. So you might do some of the court papers. And then they put their own name on it. They may practice with them of what will happen when they go to court. Clients are incredibly appreciative and are willing to pay for that service.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Absolutely. And we’ve had a couple really great podcast episodes where attorneys were working with had been given a lot of insights into the specifics on how they offer limited appearances, how they explain it to the client, the types of agreements they form with them, how they charge and so forth. One of them being Dave Gross interview from January 1st of 2017. It’s called, “Chronicling the Journey from a Solo Practitioner to Small Firm: Limited Appearances, Contract Lawyers, Scaling up for Practice.”
We’ve also had a discussion very recently with Thomas King, one of our provider attorneys out of Northern New Jersey around how to overcome or at least safely provide limited appearances in courts that aren’t as used to attorneys offering unbundled services or limited appearances. And some things that you can do in being proactive in contacting and notifying the courts that don’t have procedures already to receive you delivering limited appearances to avoid any confusion about the scope of your representation.
From your perspective, and certainly from our perspective we’ve seen states adopt this slower than others, faster than others. Some states have the notice of limited appearance form. Where you file it along with your petition and it’s basically a self-executing document where you don’t have to be worrying at all about being tied to continuing to represent a specific client. You literally have forms that are filed with your petitions that notify the court above that. And then there’s a lot of other variances to varying degrees throughout the United States.
Have you tracked or seen any developments over the years or even recently that have given some headway towards making it a lot easier for attorneys to begin offering limited appearances if that’s a solution they want to provide in their practice?
Forrest Mosten: Oh there are so many Dave as you might know. The ABA standing committee on legal services. Has a legal resource link with information galore for people who want to do that. IAALS the co-sponsor of the unbundling conference has a number of resources from that conference that is right there on the website for those lawyers. Many states have packages of forms and instructions, and protocols for the lawyers. That would be a topic of one podcast in and of itself. There are lots of resources. There’s starting to be training as you intimated before.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. So what I will do is make this episode a resource-intensive show notes in the sense that I will provide links to the ABA Standing Committee to the Delivery of Legal Services Resourcespage, IAALS resource page from the Better Access Through Unbundling Conference resources. I’ll link there. And then some other resources that you’ve provided so generously including a link to your website Woody. Because you have … I’ve been spending a lot of time going through it over the past few days. And you have just a wealth of information as well for attorneys looking to start to provide unbundled services. Including a new book you just released: Unbundled Legal Services: A family lawyer’s Guide. Maybe you can talk briefly about the book. We can cover the training. And then maybe we can zoom out a bit on some things that are going on in the industry as well.
Forrest Mosten: Well thank you. This book … I wrote the first one … Listen to this, for the ABA Law Practice Management section. The Law Practice Management Section is there to make money for lawyers. And they published my first book in 2000. This book was written actually 18 years later, it takes a year to get the book going is a real update. And it includes a number of strategies and different services that many of your listeners probably haven’t done. I’ll just give you a few of them. One is being a client-coach, client-lawyer for mediations when you’re not the mediator. When your client is in mediation how to prepare your client for mediation. How to represent your client in mediation on a limited scope way.
Then it has chapters on all of the various services that we’ve talked about including a chapter on ethics, a chapter on successful models in the marketplace. Dave, I have to apologize had I only known about your wonderful company I would have showcased you, but I didn’t know it before I wrote the book. The book just came out the last couple months. You can get it from my website, or the ABA. It’s a real resource. The AFCC, which is the biggest interdisciplinary organization. The Association of Family Conciliation Courts it really is the top of the field for family practitioners. Is sponsoring the first ever two-day unbundling training for lawyers at a very low cost. It will be March 5th and 6th in Chicago. I’m going to do the training. I’m doing it for AFCC pro-bono. My other training are not pro-bono. I get paid for it. But because they are making this available as sort of a beta test to give lawyers who are either doing it now or wanting to get into unbundling two full days of skill training. The least I can do is contribute to their efforts. I’ve also been a card-carrying AFCC member for a long time and really support their work.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. So I can tell you, Woody, I will absolutely 100% be there. That again is March 5th and 6th in Chicago. So I would really encourage attorneys in the network to see what they can do to attend that conference. It’s a two-day training. It is our hope, especially coming out of this most recent conference Better Access Through Unbundling that a lot more training like this is going to exist throughout the country. That this will be the first of many, many, many to come. Maybe you can talk about, Woody, just some of the things you’re most excited about in the evolution of unbundled services. Things that are starting to see in various different states. The Limited Assistance Representation Training. Things that are happening in the state Bars. Obviously, there’s a lot of takeaways from this most recent conference that we just had in Denver. So maybe you can just outline personally a couple things that you find to be most exciting in your years of being exposed and involved in reaching out and furthering the cause and the mission, and the awareness of unbundled services throughout the country.
Forrest Mosten: Well Dave, it’s really our time. It’s our time in the sense that consumers have long wanted these services. They haven’t gotten them for two reasons. One they didn’t know about them. They didn’t know that they could go to the lawyer, an experienced lawyer, and just pay for the services that they need. And if they didn’t know that they could do it they wouldn’t do it. And lawyers, who are really top-notch practitioners didn’t think of unbundling as a way to improve their practices and to expand their practices. As Bill Howl, who is a very highly-regarded family lawyer from Portland, Oregon said at the conference, “The lawyers who don’t unbundle are leaving money in the street.” They are basically … if their practice is too busy and they want to cut down because they want to spend more time meditating or traveling, that’s okay. But if they want to really help people and make a living unbundling is their key. They don’t have to learn a different substantive field because this can happen for civil as well as family practitioners. But they do have to learn a different way of practicing. A way that the lawyer and the client are partners from the very beginning. They have to have the sense that clients may not follow their advice, and they muck it up. And they have to be able to have the tolerance and the bandwidth to do that.
So what I’m excited about is right now, most states have unbundling friendly laws. What they don’t have necessarily are good forms. Further, what they don’t have, are people who are trained and those younger practitioners how may have finished an incubator or just starting to put a shingle over their head. They may not be supervised. They may not have the right mentoring. So one of the things I’m very excited about your company Dave is that you make that quality as part of your mission. I was very impressed with that at the conference. The fact that it isn’t just you want to make your lawyers available. You want to make them available with quality services. I don’t believe that consumers have to trade quality for the price.
They may be to be willing not to have the lawyer do as much work. And if a lawyer doesn’t do as much work there may be a diminution in quality because very few lay people can do things as well as lawyers. But then it’s a trade-off. It’s a financial grown-up consumer trade-off. I trust people, I trust consumers to make good decisions. If they choose to do it themselves they know they’re going to take a hit in quality. They may take a hit in results. But that’s their choice. The more they want to sue you as a lawyer the better their quality will be and the better their results. So it’s a very, very exciting time and I can only see it growing.
Nobody’s really against it Dave. There’s no opposition to unbundling. The biggest problem is that there aren’t … there isn’t the proactive training development of resources and forms ready for the people to use them.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and I really appreciate that. I’ll get your perspective on this, but I really agree 100%. I appreciate your comments about what we’re doing for unbundled legal services and quality. And also affordability while attorneys can continue to be profitable delivering it. I appreciate your comments that you shared from Bill Howl about how much attorneys are leaving on the table financially by not delivering these services. We’ve had 40 plus episodes outlining how to deliver them profitably in your practice and efficiently. You mentioned something such as incubators and training. You know, as someone that’s taught at UCLA at the law school there maybe you could just speak briefly about what you need … what you would like to see happen at law schools. Maybe you can share what’s happening with some of the incubators that are popping up around the country to train and make awareness, and educate attorneys on how to effectively deliver these services in their practice. That seems to be something that has been missing that is a really important component of this becoming a real self-evident component of any lawyer’s practice.
Forrest Mosten: Dave, are you open to a friendly amendment?
Dave Aarons: Yes. Please share the vision you have for the law … the rule.
Forrest Mosten: No, no. The friendly amendment is our time is almost up. In fact, it is up. I’ve got to run.
Dave Aarons: Okay.
Forrest Mosten: How about, if you’ll consider having me back after the first of the year we can make the question that you just asked the start of our conversation. You might even have people who’ve listened here who can send in questions to you. And you can use those questions as the start of a second podcast.
Dave Aarons: That sounds like a wonderful idea, Woody. So what I will do kind of being inspired on this episode. I will create a new blog post on our blog. Blog. Unbundledattorney.com is the blog. You can just go to unbundledattorney.com/blog. I’ll create a new post with all the resources that have been outlined that we are aware of.
I want to make this something that people can contribute to in the community. So there’ll be a place where you can leave comments with any additional resources, ideas, discussions, things that you found helpful. Learning how to deliver unbundled services in your practice. Then we can basically compile all those resources into one hub. And certainly implement it into our onboarding and our training with any attorneys that come to work with us. Of course link any of the resources we’ve talked about in this episode in the show notes for this episode as well. And I will link tot hat blog post as soon as we get this episode live. And we’ll just be continuing to add resources to that episode as we go. Then we can certainly discuss what needs to happen at the level of our law schools and educators to make this something that becomes self-evident across the country.
So with that, Woody I want to thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast today and share so openly. We certainly appreciate all the work you’ve been doing tirelessly for 20 plus years.
Forrest Mosten: Wait, wait, wait, wait. I have one more thing. We haven’t talked about my compensation for today. May I tell you what I’d like?
Dave Aarons: Okay. Please.
Forrest Mosten: Right. With all of your listeners? I want one of your t-shirts. You have the greatest t-shirt and I think it is that an appropriate compensation for my time today. I would love to have a t-shirt to wear. I’ll let people see it. I think it will … I’ll be branding your company too. But it also says unbundled legal services. I think it’s great.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Thank you so much. And what size do you wear, Woody?
Forrest Mosten: Extra large.
Dave Aarons: XL. I will get our team to get a t-shirt immediately to you in the mail straight away after this podcast. So more than happy to provide that compensation. We’ll be looking for a picture of you sporting it.
Forrest Mosten: Good! No hats? No buttons? It’s okay. A t-shirt’s just fine.
Dave Aarons: That’s all we got so far. But maybe we’ll have to get some more shwag in the works here. We will be having a conference at the end of March having our attorneys come together. That’s when a lot of attorneys are first hearing this. But I’m actually in Denver right now picking out the conference venue. There are some beautiful places picked out. So maybe we’ll have some more shwag ready for the end of March for when all of our attorneys come together.
But with that, I want to be respectful of your time. Thank you so much, Woody for coming on the episode. And for everyone else who’s listening, thank you for your participation in this podcast and doing what you can to implement these services and unbundled options into your practice. It certainly makes a difference every single day and we thank you so much for being a part of this movement. And we will certainly see you all on the next episode.
What did you think of the interview? Do you have any questions or comments for Dave Aarons or our guest Forrest Mosten?
Leave your comments or questions below and we’ll ask them to respond to you directly!
Episode 43: A Discussion with the Founder of Unbundled Legal Services, Forrest “Woody” Mosten: Exploring the History and Exciting Future of Unbundling
Considered to be the founder of the “Unbundled” concept, Forrest “Woody” Mosten has spent the last 20+ years advocating for the awareness and ethical acceptance of unbundled legal services. Today Woody joins us to share the background and history of unbundled legal services, and how it is positioned to have a tremendous impact on access to justice in the future. He gives us a fundamental understanding of what the core unbundled services offerings are, including examples of what he offers in his own practice. We share a ton of resources, websites, books, and training that help educate attorneys on how to ethically and effectively deliver unbundled services in their practice.
To read a complete transcript of this interview, click here
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The story of the genesis of unbundled legal services, including how Woody came up with the name and how the first ethics opinions were released by the ABA
- How Woody uses popsicle sticks to teach unbundled services to his students
- Woody’s 7 core unbundled service options, and how to implement each of them in your own practice
- Why he considers “Advising Client” to be the fundamental unbundled service that often goes overlooked and underutilized in the average lawyer’s practice
- How Woody defines the difference between “Discovery” and “Gathering Facts”, and how you can start to think about offering each as separate discrete tasks
- Why unbundled was once considered to be a standalone service separate from litigation, but has now become a valuable service option for both uncontested and contested legal matters
- How to offer “Negotiation” as an unbundled service, and the different ways you can assist your clients by handling this aspect of their case
- How drafting documents can encompass a lot more than just preparing court forms and documents
- The value of offering to write letters for your clients, either as a ghostwriter or on your law firm letterhead
- How judges influenced Woody to change his mind about the value of attorneys offering to make a limited appearance for their clients
- A breakdown of organizations and committees that provide valuable information for lawyers and have been instrumental in the growth and acceptance of unbundled legal services
- The topics Woody covers in his most recent book “Unbundled Legal Services: A Family Lawyer's Guide”
- How unbundled legal services helps attorneys build a more profitable practice
- Some of the barriers that still need to be overcome in order for unbundled legal services to be offered by a greater number of attorneys
- Details on the first national training for unbundled legal services taught by Woody coming up during March in Chicago
- An invitation for a “Round Two” discussion with Woody on law schools, incubators, and how to educate and inspire our next generation of attorneys to offer unbundled legal services in their practice
- And much more...
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- The Neutral Zone
- #unbundlenow (Twitter)
- Dave Gross’s Podcast (Limited appearances)
- Thomas King’s Podcast (Offering unbundled and limited appearances in traditional courts)
- Unbundling Resource Center - ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services
- Forrest Mosten's Article - Unbundled Services to Enhance Peacemaking for Divorcing Families
- IAALS - Materials from Better Access Through Unbundling Conference
- Forrest Mosten’s Website
- Forrest Mosten’s Newest Book: Unbundled Legal Services: A Family Lawyer's Guide
- AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts)
- Building a Successful Unbundling Practice Training - March 5-6th, 2018 in Chicago, IL
- Blog post with resources mentioned and a complete transcription of this interview
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For more information about Unbundled Attorney and how our Lead Generation services help grow your practice, visit: https://www.unbundledattorney.com