Chronicling the Journey From a New Solo Practice to a Small Law Firm: Limited Appearances, Hiring Contract Lawyers, and Scaling Up a Practice

January 1st, 2017

I’m really excited for this episode with provider attorney David Gross out of Vancouver, Washington. We’ve been working with David for a long time ever since he … Basically, a month after he started his own practice in Vancouver, Washington, after moving from Philadelphia.

This episode covers two main things primarily in addition to some other practical tips and suggestions, but, number one, limited appearances and unbundled services. We’ll talk a lot about limited appearances as well as, number two, scaling your practice from being a solo practitioner to hiring contract lawyers, to hiring an assistant, bringing on a partner and just expanding out as your client base grows.

With limited appearance, he really spends a lot of time talking about when and how he offers those options, how to deal with cases in which, for example, you’re not representing someone on the paperwork that you prepared yourself and then, also, the unbundled options he offers, the price points, how he works with clients, how he coaches clients that are going to be representing themselves pro se.

I mean this is a really good episode for attorneys that are offering unbundled and limited appearances or are considering to offer these options to really get some practical tips on how to better work with clients who are going to be either be pro se right after you prepared their paperwork for them or you’re only doing one unlimited appearance and they potentially may be continuing on from there, so just some great, practical strategies there.

Then, also, for new solos or solo practitioners that are growing and maybe getting more clients, either to field better leads or just are wanting to get to that next level, how to start making that transition, contract lawyers, how to write, place some ad, the fee split for hiring a contract lawyer and just, overall, how to make the transition in thinking and psychology from being a solo practitioner wearing all the hats to having people working for you and building a small business.

This is a wonderful episode, so many great strategies here, so let’s get right into it, this interview with David Gross, one of our provider attorneys out of Vancouver, Washington.

Below is the transcription of this episode from our 
Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. You can listen to the entire episode by clicking here.

Dave Aarons: All right, hey, Dave, welcome to the show.

David Gross: Thank you very much, Dave. Happy to be here.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, it’s been a long time coming here. As I was saying when we were just chatting a minute ago, I feel like I know you really well. You’ve been working very closely with Graham Scott for the year and a half we’ve been working together, but, from what I’ve been hearing, things have been going really good, and it was a nice springboard when we started working together back in March, so I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your story and charting the course that you’ve had over these last year and a half since you … and, also, since you first started your practice.

Thank for taking the time to join us today.

David Gross: Happy to be here. Yeah, we’ve had some growing pains and some stumbling blocks, but I think that we’ve really been able to make good use of the leads that I get through Unbundled, so, yeah, happy to help out.

Dave Aarons: Growing pains and stumbling blocks are the meat and potatoes of podcast interviews, so I’m looking forward to diving into all those growing pains and stumbling blocks because that’s where there are lots to learn. It seems like when we are most challenged is when we seem to make the most growth, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about that, so maybe if could you talk just briefly … I know you have a background working in government and then you transitioned to full practice, so you’re starting your practice. Can you talk a little bit about your background and when you made that transition and how that’s been for you?

David Gross: Sure. I was an elected prosecutor in a small county in Idaho and then moved to Seattle and joined the prosecuting attorney’s office there, and had a great career in Seattle for 11 years and did almost nothing but constant trials while I was there, and so my time in court … That’s where I lived, and so … I moved to the East Coast for family reasons and, once I was there, having a 15, 17-whatever-year career it was at the time, it was tough to get into any kind of government agency. They all want to hire low and promote from within. To hire me and put me above someone who’d been there for 8 or 9 years didn’t seem like something they wanted to do as far as internal morale, so I started working as a contract lawyer for a small firm just outside of Philadelphia, and it was great and I learned a lot, and I love those guys, but it just wasn’t lucrative enough.

A buddy of mine was starting his own firm back here in Vancouver, Washington, right next to Portland, Oregon. I came over and started my own firm. We share an office space. I had a physical location and a couple of clients handpicked and delivered to me, which was great, and then I’d worked on a lot of family law in Philadelphia, so, when I got back here, that’s what I chose to focus on as much as I could despite all my experience in criminal law and, somehow, either I found Unbundled or Unbundled found me, and the leads started coming and, literally, allowed me to keep my doors open for the first six or seven months just through the clients that I got from Unbundled Attorney. It was a very lucky coincidence.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, can you put us in time there from when you started your practice? By the way, Vancouver, have you been there before? You spent time in Portland and then across the river in Vancouver. Was it solely because you had that friend who was starting a practice and so you figured, “Hey, let’s give Vancouver a shot.” I was just kind of curious about that.

David Gross: Yeah. No, I had lived primarily in Seattle. My best friend, being here in Vancouver, I’d spent some time here, but the entire reason for starting my firm in this town, two reasons. The primary reason was my best friend and I have wanted to work together closely ever since our first year of law school when we met 25 years ago.

The second reason was that Seattle is really heavily stocked with attorneys doing family law, doing criminal defense. You name it, and there are a million law firms doing anything, so Vancouver seemed like as good a place as any. It was certainly better than trying to break out in the … on the East Coast where, again, you’ve got a million different law firms all specializing in things and some gigantic ones doing these full-service programs, but, also, being a guy who has an undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Idaho, I think that some of the people in the East Coast thought that I must have studied by candlelight in a log cabin or something.

I’ve been a law professor and I had, I thought, a pretty stellar resume, but getting my foot in anybody’s door was really a challenge, so I come back here and things seemed to open up for me. That’s kind of how Vancouver happened.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Absolutely. When was it that you started your practice in Vancouver? Oh, February?

David Gross: Yeah, February of 2015, and I think Unbundled and I started our relationship in March. I wasn’t here for long before we found each other somehow.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and I’m really humbled by the fact that it was so helpful for you in your early days keeping the doors open and keeping clients flowing in that door and, all the work that you’re doing for the clients, we surely appreciate it, too. I’m glad that fate would have it that we would meet, Dave.

Obviously, since we’ve … Since that time, you’ve gone through a lot of different phases, going from a solo practitioner and then you transitioned to hiring some contract lawyers. Can you talk about why you made that transition and how that’s been for you and maybe take us through some of those changes over the last couple of years?

David Gross: Sure. Having no experience in starting my own firm, I sort of stole my business model from the guys I was working with, in Pennsylvania, and the one thing that I knew that I had to do was keep overhead low, especially having no client base and no place to guarantee any sort of steady stream of phone calls or anything. I designed a website.

Is it okay to mention brand names on here?

Dave Aarons: Of course, absolutely.

David Gross: Yeah, okay. I designed my own website through VistaPrint when I ordered my business cards. Having the last name of “Gross,” I figured I needed to pick a better name for my firm than “Gross Law.” I did some research and stumbled upon “Pinnacle” and got the company formed as Pinnacle Law Firm … or Pinnacle Law Office, LLC, and at some point in that process, Unbundled and I found each other.

In the first effort of keeping overhead low, I was doing all the business stuff, all the business organization, all the marketing, I was reaching out to all the leads that came in, meeting with everybody and doing all the work itself. Even with five or six years of family law experience on the East Coast, the procedures, of course, are different back in Washington, and so there were some growing pains there just figuring things out.

Having Unbundled ended up being beneficial in that I was charging people flat fees, relatively small amounts of money, and then learning some things on my own. It was, therefore, only costing me time and not clients’ money because I wasn’t going to charge them for my learning curve.

I found that to be kind of an unexpected benefit, that I could make some mistakes on my own, but it wasn’t going to be costing the clients’ money. It wasn’t going to be showing up on their invoices as time spent on your case. When it was just a flat fee thing and, if it ended up costing me additional time. It just wasn’t at the expense of these clients who were coming in and asking me for help.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, that’s an interesting idea also for newer attorneys to consider doing flat rates. In a way, did it force you to become more efficient and be more clear about how long things are going to take and really think about things thoroughly because, obviously, if you do a flat rate and all of a sudden you end up spending a lot more time on the case, and you expect it to kind of … It burns you a bit, but, obviously, you don’t charge.

That’s an interesting idea, so why did you originally determine to do flat rates and how was that, how did that impact your firm and, also, what did those rates look like?

David Gross: Part of the reason why I started considering flat rates was because the idea was introduced to me through Unbundled, but also because, in Washington, just as I was starting my firm, there was a rule change from the supreme court that was allowing non-practitioners to set up shop and start producing documents for people., not representing them, but giving them packets of, “Here’s your divorce, uh, petition and your motion for temporary orders, and I can even help you sort these things out,” and so we had this brand new market competing with barred attorneys to do this kind of work.

That’s turned out to not be as big a threat to the market as a lot of people who thought it was going to be. We ended up having to clarify and unscrew some things if they screw up as we go, but that’s why the idea of flat fee services was sort of introduced.

I’ve been through a couple of divorces myself, and I’m certainly aware that lawyers can be expensive, and then I know that as I set my rates and figured these things out that, if you want to have … if you want to be able to help people, then perhaps having some level where you are [inaudible 00:12:39] $5,000 retainer and I’m happy to help you out, where you’re going to be sitting in your office with nothing to do for a lot of the time because $5,000 bucks is not something that a lot of people just have handy.

To help people out and continue to feel like a counselor to people and to help them through this process, doing a flat fee service really seemed to work for me and for these people who are coming in. I got a feel very quickly for the limited budgets that people had, and they’re very open to discussing what I can do for them for these limited budgets.

Very few people seem to be wanting a handout in any way. I did have some that would come in and sort of use the consultation as a chance to get some free legal advice, which later led me to start charging for the consults, but that’s how the flat fee thing came to be.

As far as the rates go, as Unbundled markets me, the ad that pops up in the Google search says $500 to whatever, and so that was sort of the baseline that I started off on.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, 500 to 5,000-plus usually [inaudible 00:13:58].

David Gross: Exactly. Yeah. The conversation often goes with clients that, obviously, the less we do, the less it’d cost you. I have adjusted my target hourly rate for Unbundled clients accordingly, and we now have a pretty streamlined process for, if you just want us to prepare a packet of documents and some directions and “this is how you do it” and then, once you have them done, come in and we’ll review them with you, that’s where our $500 service starts.

If there’s going to be any court appearances involved, it’s going to get higher, and it depends on what it is and how many documents are going to be involved. Part of this is still sort of this intuitive process of, okay, a parenting plan is going to require a petition to modify the proposed parenting plan, the declarations and support, to have [inaudible 00:14:59] hearing, and so, if you just want us to prepare the documents, that’s going to be one cost. To prepare the documents and go to court for you, that’s another cost.

We’re starting to create finally after a year and a half, as we consider some of that measured growth that you and I spoke about a few minutes ago, starting to develop more of a structured price list so that, now that we’re getting busier and busier, as another attorney in my office is going to start handling some of the consults, he and I are going to be on the same page at all times about what we do and for what cost.

Did that answer your question?

Dave Aarons: Yes, it does. No, absolutely.

David Gross: Okay.

Dave Aarons: It’s really helpful for, I think, a lot of us and attorneys certainly to hear that you’re offering these options and beginning to explore different ways to do it is to think about, okay, what are these, what can I … what should I charge of these, what should I charge for that, how should I structure that. Just sharing that $500 option, how you explain that and then, each level beyond that, then you got the document preparation, plus a limited appearance. Washington’s is one of the … I believe, one of the states that supports that or at least allows you to put in that notice of limited appearance, right?

David Gross: Absolutely. That was another thing that we had to sort of figure out was, rather than just enter a notice of appearance, which then requires … and then to withdraw from a case in Washington, you have to file a notice of intent to withdraw, and that notices become effective without objection a number of days later and, during that process, you could get stuck in another proceeding or another, at least, response to some documents that come in that have a deadline.

Rather than have to file a notice of intent to withdraw and wait 10 days after service for that to become effective, if we can just file the notice of limited appearance, then we do that, and then, as soon as that appearance is done, file a notice with the court that clarifies to everybody that our limited appearance is complete and we are no longer the people upon whom you should be serving anything.

That allows us to not get sucked into ongoing things that we haven’t been paid for, which we learned the hard way. On a couple of those, we didn’t get out of something fast enough. A pro se litigant on the other side started bombarding the court with motions and declarations, and there’s a timeline to respond and, before you know it, you were spending hours and hours of things for free because we didn’t get out of it quickly enough or because we didn’t draft our fee agreement in a way that was clear enough for the client to understand that we’re only doing this much.

That was a very difficult lesson to learn and something that, if anybody is just coming on board with Unbundled, in considering limited appearances and flat fee services, I think that’s a really difficult lesson, that you can tell them in the initial client meeting as many times as you want that, “I’m going to come in and do this one hearing for you, but when the hearing gets continued or there is a follow-up hearing to enter orders or there’s another motion filed on the same subject matter,” let’s say you jumped in to help somebody out with a contempt proceeding and the court finds no contempt, and then the other party being pro se files immediately another motion, if your fee agreement says, “Here, we’re going to jump in and help you out for a contempt of court,” that’s incredibly vague.

The client is not coming to you saying, “You promised to help me with this, and I paid you for this.” Rather than get into a dispute with the client, it may be easier to capitulate and go, “Okay, we’ll help you out with this as well.” Now, you’re costing yourself time and money. Structuring the fee agreement, being very clear about what you will and will not do and going through that with them very pointedly and highlighting even when necessary some of those things have been very important.

We haven’t lost a single person just because of our effort to be more clear on that. People are still wanting help. People are still willing to pay for help and sign up with that understanding that we’re jumping in for this much and then we’re out.

It’s been great, but that was a difficult learning curve, and it cost me quite a bit of money because I ended up paying some of my contract attorneys for their time because I didn’t want to [inaudible 00:19:34] them because of my mistake in my inartful drafting.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. It’s really interesting to see how the different courts throughout the country have been accepting or … not accepting the ability for attorneys to offer limited appearances through a simple notice of a limited appearance. Maybe half the states allow that. The other half don’t, and it’s just … but, gradually, what we’re seeing is like, we’ve been doing this years and years and years of following a bundled and limited scope, and it’s interesting to see each state, all of a sudden, now, another one accepts it, another one accepts it. Massachusets has a whole training system on it now. I mean, it’s just …

David Gross: Oh, good.

Dave Aarons: … and so there’s an evolution. I think each state is more conservative than others and there’s … so they evolve slower. I think, at some point, there’ll be a day when, in every state, lawyers can offer limited appearances without that challenge, but we’re just not necessarily there yet.

For those that can, can you talk about just also the benefit of being able to offer limited appearances from a cost standpoint to the client and how that’s been able to help your practice grow and also serve more clients by being able to do so, assuming you’re doing it within a structured manner that doesn’t get you stuck in the pitfalls that you talked about?

David Gross: Sure. For the client, some of them get really, as anyone who does any family law work all knows, some of them get really caught up in the emotion of it. As soon as you get into court and the other side, the other parent or partner or ex-wife or ex-husband or whatever is present, even if they’re not speaking, rationality seems to fade away and the ability articulate their position disappears. Some people just very simply have stage fright and they worry about, “Am I saying the right thing? Am I saying the wrong thing? What does this judge think of me? Oh, my God, does the judge hate me now?” Of course, there are many vile things said about people, and clients worry a great deal about the court assuming that these naked allegations are true.

As we all know that a lot of it is white noise because they hear it every day, and only when they’re backed up by some facts or evidence do judges start to care, so getting us in on a limited appearance basis allows us to go and articulate their position and argue for them.

We know the commissioners in Washington. The first level of almost any family law case is dealt with by commissioners and then it goes to a judge later on. We know the commissioners and we know how to relate to them. We know what they care about and don’t care about. It can be a big benefit to the client just to have us there. We can also recognize an untenable position, concede where necessary in order to gain some credibility for our client and then push where we think we can gain some ground. For the client, it carries that benefit primarily.

One of the risks for us aside from getting sucked into something we didn’t think we were signing up for is, sometimes, you end up going to court based on filings and declarations that we had no business or no part in preparing. That can be difficult, but … pardon me … the courts have been awfully understanding about that.

We’ve spoken to a number of commissioners and a number of judicial assistants about our role in limited appearance because we were concerned that, “Are we really helping our firm name by doing this?” or, “Are we hurting us? How do they see this whole limited appearance thing?” and everyone seems to acknowledge that getting an attorney involved can have a downside in that it can make the other side panic and run and, after continuance, which is granted almost always, and get their own lawyer.

It can put the brakes on something momentarily, but it usually means that things are going to be handled more professionally and more efficiently. By and large, the bench is in support of the idea of getting us involved at some level rather than just having pro se litigants go into court and throw stones at each other and leave it to the judge to decide which ones to catch.

Dave Aarons: Right. It’s a great analogy, and you can really picture that as being really what’s going on there. That’s an interesting point in the analysis from the court standpoint of limited appearances and supporting it, and obviously, why some courts in certain states haven’t allowed it and so forth.

You talked about something there where you may be entering a limited appearance on paperwork that you made and have prepared. How do you balance that out? I mean do you make sure that when you … You have to review that paper.

Let’s say someone says, “I got to go to court in two days,” or at least … so can you talk about those different scenarios where they’d be, because of a time factor, you didn’t prepare the documents or, because now that they’ve responded, now they’re just … now, they’re not quite comfortable with going by themselves? How do you prepare yourself properly to enter appearances on all these different types of scenarios?

David Gross: If they come to us and they have their court appearance in two days, then we’re often just going to … we’ll jump in with the expressed understanding that this hearing is going to be set over. That’s pretty easy to accomplish in Clark County.

Early on in my time in this county, I was filing a motion to shorten time along with a motion to continue and I go into court, and finally one of the commissioners very kindly said, “Yeah, you don’t need to do that. If you’re coming in at the last minute and someone’s just hired you, just come into court and say, you know, ‘Hey, I just came in. Can we set this over?’and you’ll get your continuance.”

We’ve had cases where clients will come in, and the local rules are very clear on the length of declarations you can file and the number of declarations you could file, but, of course, pro se litigants don’t know this. They will file these 12-page novelettes and file seven of them, trying to hammer it into the commissioner’s head that their father really is terrible and the homie ass is dangerous and whatever that may be.

When we’re faced with going to court, having these support of documents, sometimes it’s actually easier if they’ve filed a ton of nonsense like that because, then, we can come into, get the continuance, we can prepare one declaration that is clearer, more persuasive, sets forth the important facts for the court, because we all know that … and I’ve told countless clients this, that if you present them with an encyclopedia, they’re not going to read it. They’ve got 20 to 30 cases on any given calendar, and they’re not going to sit down and read your novel about this case to prepare for it. You need to have something that is concise and presents the facts.

Even though the local rule technically doesn’t allow it, courts will not strike a better-prepared declaration that’s filed after you get the continuance. In fact, they may rely on it, so that’s one thing that’s helpful.

The other option is, sometimes, you just go to court based on what they file and, sometimes, very rarely, because normally you can get it set over and do some patchwork, but sometimes you’re stuck with what it is. When that happens, you need to represent the client and focus on the important part, while  letting the court know when necessary that, “I wasn’t involved in preparing this, but let me tell you the important stuff.”

You can give the court a wink that, “I understand there’s some stuff in there that you don’t want to hear or you don’t care about. Let me focus you on what does matter,” and, that way, it’s not harming our reputation in front of the bench and we can still represent the client and advocate the important stuff that maybe contained somewhere within those seven or eight pages or whatever. That’s just a matter of comfort in court and a little of experience I think.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Obviously, this declaration is really important in your county and throughout the state of Washington. Other bench, judges, and courts weigh it differently, read it differently. Some do. Some don’t.

For you, in your experience, how important and how much of a value has it been for the clients where you end up just preparing that declaration? Also, attorneys need to evaluate that unique benefit, the level of benefit for their local courts as well, but it’s a real … How much has that made a difference for the clients where they take you up on that $500 option because that’s probably maybe what all they can afford, they can’t-do the appearance and so forth, and you’ve helped them with their documents, draft their declaration and then they go and represent themselves?

How valuable has that been for them that they were able to work with an attorney that’s willing to offer this unbundled option and, now, all that’s done properly instead of the stone throwing that we described earlier?

David Gross: Sadly, we don’t get a lot of feedback from them when they are the clients who come in and seek our help and then go on and represent themselves.

We’ve had a few cases where the clients have come back and paid us another flat fee for another hearing or, “This was so great. We want to do this some more, but I can only afford to pay you, you know, at, uh, you know, X amount, you know, per meeting and X amount per hearing,” and that’s fine. I’ve done that for especially one client that I have in mind that I’m actually meeting with this afternoon again.

Typically, in the course of having us prepare that, we also get to talk to them about how to present and what to leave out, what to put in, what to emphasize, that the court doesn’t care a lot about you two standing in court and spitting at each other. The court wants to know what’s going on and how do you help me make a decision, and so that’s what you need to focus on, not your anger at this guy or his new girlfriend or whatever, focus on, “Here are the issues that I see that are relevant,” and that, “If you talk about these in court, that’s going to help you make your case.”

At least for this one client, it went well. The original declaration presented was about seven pages, handwritten. We turned that into a page and a half, typed, changed the constant references to the new girlfriend as the mistress. I think “mistress” was used about 38 times in the seven-page document. We got rid of that because it was just unnecessarily negative and it made her seem petty.

You don’t want to do in front of the court. You want to be focused on, “This is what’s best for my kids. It’s not about the injured feelings that may still be lingering from the divorce no matter how long ago it was or how recently. Just, you know, get away from that kind of stuff that might feel good when you write it, but doesn’t present well in court.”

Preparing these documents for them, going through it and explaining why we made the choices we did in retyping it or preparing it or whatever, we get to also help them prepare for the time when they go and represent themselves.

The few times we actually get feedback, it’s been great. People are really happy with the suggestions we made and the documents we prepped. It’s gone incredibly well. We’ve got some feedback and some people kindly putting out some great reviews for us on Avvo and things like that that have I think helped with our firm reputation as well as helping those clients along the way.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and that really gets at the analysis for the courts and the ethics committees to put out the ethics [spendings 00:32:36] they have, supporting attorneys offering these unbundled options because the difference and impact they can have and how challenging it could be for the clients to put the motion aside and be practical and clear on how to … and sway the judge, and the value it could be for you to sit down with them and go, “You know, I understand you want to say these things. I understand it feels good, and I understand the emotions could be high and you could be really upset, but, you know, these are the things that you need to lay out and this is how it goes,” and the amount of difference it is from, like you said, the seven-page rant to something that’s a well-articulated fact-based written argument and how different that could be.

David Gross: Exactly, yeah, rather than just saying, “I feel like my kids would be safer with me than with, uh, my ex-wife.” That’s not going to get you anywhere, but, now, if you can make this fact-based, because of her drinking or because of her horrific driving record or the fact that she has a religious objection to seat belts or whatever it may be, those kinds of things are fact-based and judges can hang their hats on those things.

I find that clients are incredibly receptive once you start trying to put them in the judge’s shoes. This is who the judges are and this is what they listen to every single day. Think about what you’re presenting to them and how you help them, how do you make their job easier. Give them the tools to go your way and feel good about it.

Clients are incredibly receptive to that. They understand that stone-throwing is not going to accomplish anything, and it does not matter if you win the argument with your ex. What matters is you walk out having the court ruled in your favor. That’s the only thing that matters, so keep your eye on the prize.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Exactly. This is really interesting. Is there anything more you can say about how you coach the clients when you’re offering unbundled and then they’re going pro se from there largely, I’m sure, due to financial considerations and just not being able to afford you to make the appearances and so forth and also strategies that other attorneys might be able to learn from some of the options … You’re offering these options for the amount of time you have now. How you can better prepare that client, how you can coach them, how they can understand what the judge’s perspective, anything that you might say or share with them to help them be … better understand what it is they’re trying to do, that client is trying to do when they go to court that you developed in the process?

David Gross: Sure. One of the things that they need to understand immediately is you can’t walk into court with pages of medical records or, “I’ve got statements from their daycare providers,” or whatever it may be.

At the commissioner level here, the decisions are made based on everything that’s provided in writing ahead of time. If you’re presenting the motion, it’s 10 court days before the hearing. If you’re responding, it’s five court days, and then you can have replies three court days before the hearing itself, but that’s where the rubber meets the road. You don’t get to go to court and say, “Oh, yeah, and also there are these facts,” because the court is going to, “Yeah, I don’t care. That wasn’t written and it’s not in front of me appropriate at the moment,” and the other side, as a lawyer, they’re going to, of course, object to those things because they’re not … they’re outside the content of the declarations in front of the judge.

Having them understand that what’s in writing is what matters, if the other side starts making additional allegations about you, first of all, don’t take them personally. Don’t worry about what the judge does or does not think of you. Don’t be concerned about whether it’s embarrassing for these things to be aired in front of a courtroom full of spectators because, if you’re pro se, you’re being heard on a pro se dock, which means all these people are in there with their own problems and their own concerns and they’re not listening and they don’t care about what is being said about you. They don’t know you. They have their own kids and their own stuff to worry about.

What you have to focus on is how you present your case. You will know what the basis of their argument is because you’ll see it in writing five days before the hearing. You’ve got that stuff in front of you. You can reply in writing. When you are arguing in front of the court, here’s what you need to focus on.

Let’s say it’s a contempt proceeding. Then it’s very clear like this is what the parenting plan says. This is what he consistently fails to do. There’s no confusion here. It’s just that he just isn’t caring about his kids or he’s denying me my time with the kids and is doing so consciously. Just stick to the point that is made by all the evidence you’ve given.

You just help them understand the difference between evidence and argument and presenting facts through argument, which isn’t going to be allowed. Once you just walk them through how that’s going to work and really get them focusing on what the judge is going to care about and what the judge is going to listen to, what’s going to resonate, then they seem to have some success going in and arguing on their own.

If they have absolutely no confidence in that whatsoever, they’ll often come up with an additional fee for us to go to court and do that for them, which has happened, gosh, as often as it has. I mean, that’s a 50/50. A lot of these times they end up feeling comfortable with us, they know that we know what we’re doing, and they’ll go, “You know what? I’ll beg, borrow, steal or sell my motorcycle or whatever, and I’d like you to go to court and do this for me.” Okay. Great.

Dave Aarons: Have you had people when you’re actually coaching them on exactly what they do, make sure you do this, make sure you do that, and they go, “All right, I’ll just sell my motorcycle. I need you guys to go to court for me?” [inaudible 00:38:38] …

David Gross: Yeah.

Dave Aarons: … that transition right there and then? I mean, or at least in that …

David Gross: Yes, absolutely.

Dave Aarons: … process once they start to realize … the underlying is they start to realize, “Wow, this is … There are some serious things that need to be followed here in order … and the results of my ability to be a parent to a kid,” or whatever it is that they’re trying to accomplish is sort of riding on how they present these things.

David Gross: Yeah. For better or worse, I take them at their word if they say they can only afford 750 bucks up front or $500 bucks up front or whatever. When they come in, I am really trying to help them put their best foot forward in court. I’m not trying to scare them or bully them into paying me more money for another court appearance.

Often, in the course of trying to assuage any of their fears or prepare for this, they start realizing, “You know what? This is not in my wheelhouse. I’m a machinist,” or, “I’m a person who works in a laboratory every day, and presenting my case in open court is really not going to be something I’m comfortable with,” or, “You know, Dave, that all sounds great. I guarantee I’m going to choke when I step up, so let me come up with some more money. I’d really like you to go and do that for me.”

Yeah, that’s absolutely happened just in the course of trying to like, “Here’s, here’s the work we’ve done for you. Let me give it to you, show you what we’ve done and why, and best of luck to you,” and, instead, they go, ‘Yeah. It’s not going to work. I need you to do more.”

Dave Aarons: Right.

David Gross: Yeah, it happens with some frequency.

Dave Aarons: Also, when you can do the limited appearance and you have that as an option where you continue to go potentially an appearance at a time, the difference in cost from the unbundled option to actually having someone appear is not the same as the difference between 500 and 5,000.

Maybe you could share what is the difference between … In other words, like people don’t have to come up with a whole lot more money. It’s just a bit more to cover that time for that appearance. For you, what does that difference look like from a fees … I mean, it depends, of course, on the type of hearing and so forth. I know it’s going to vary, but it isn’t that big a jump, is it, from doing … for them doing a bundled with them, but because you can offer them a limited appearance here in your state for them for you to actually appear?

David Gross: It’s not a gigantic jump. For us, it’s going to depend primarily on whether or not we’ve had a role in preparing the initial documents that lead us in the court. If we are handed a pile of things and, “I’d like you to go to court for me in three days,” then it’s going to be a minimum of 750 because we’re going to have to review these things. We may have to doctor them, and then we have to go to court.

Court time, of course, is expensive because you go to court and, especially if it’s a neighboring county, you have to travel to that court, which adds to the fee. Even if it’s here in Clark County and the courthouse is about six blocks away, you go to court and then you wait. The judges are great about trying to get the attorneys heard first and get us out the door, but sometimes it’s just beyond their control or it’s a roomful of lawyers and you just are stuck waiting.

If it’s a court appearance where we’ve had a hand in preparing the documents or we’ve prepared all the documents ahead of time and then they’re jumping in and saying, “You know what? I’d like you to go to court for me, too,” then it’s normally going to be just 500 bucks additional because, then, when the hearing comes around, obviously we have to review the documents to know what we’re talking about, then go to court and make the appearance and, undoubtedly, participate in the preparation, if not the presentation, of the orders that flow from that hearing, so, 500 bucks, we normally do just fine on that amount for a court appearance in that scenario.

There had been times when we’re not making a lot of money on that $500, but it seems to me to be a fair amount to ask the client for that service. If it’s just, “Okay, we prepared all these things and, now, you want us to go to court,” based on, you know, two years of practice here in this county, I have a pretty good idea of what that’s going to look like as far as the time investment goes, and so 500 bucks seem a reasonable amount for that.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and you talked a little bit earlier about how you’re trying to get these price points clear because you’re having someone do more of these consults for you, and we’re going to talk about how you’ve expanded and so forth, but, correct me if I’m wrong, so, unbundled, where you’re just drafting for them and just coaching them and then they’re representing themselves, 500-ish, 750 maybe, and then drafting to limited appearance, maybe 1,000 to 1,250, some of the range, can you share what that roughly looks like?

David Gross: No, that nails it. That’s roughly what it is. We’re working on fine tuning that a bit here because we know, especially the guy that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have come on board, he has been doing nothing but family law for like 25, 30 years, so we have a pretty solid idea what it takes to prepare a parenting plan and that sort of thing. That process is going to be one fee.

The child support work can be more because there are proposed orders. There are the motions. There’s the child support worksheet, the financial declarations, the sealed financial documents, and so there’s time spent in collecting from the clients, going through the financial work, trying to get it from the other side and hoping or imputing wages to the other side and then preparing the worksheets and stuff.

Even with software, the differences in … You’d think that with software that is compliant and programmed to work within the Washington State Child Support Statutes that it would be fairly formulaic, but I have found that my decisions on applying this tax structure to their income or adding this income here or leaving that out, that you can still walk into court with two wildly different child support worksheets to support your point. A child support gets more expensive as far as preparing those, but, you’re absolutely right, if it’s just preparation of documents, handing that off, it’s usually 500 to 750.

The simplest example of that would be a contempt proceeding, motion to hold somebody in contempt. You’re going to do a declaration. Here’s what the declaration should focus on. Sometimes, you can even type that up right in front of them, but, often, I’ll have them write something up for me and get it focused, and then I’ll … or I can have somebody type it up instead.

That’s the simplest package that we can do for anybody. The work can become complicated when it comes to modification of a parenting plan or the modification of child support because those need more and more supporting documentation. That’s where you get up into 750 or so just for that stage.

If there’s going to be a hearing, there’s going to be an additional 500 bucks. If we prepared the documents, if we have not and we’re relying on someone else’s, 750, and then we can always revisit this, and you can ask us to do more and more and then we can always talk about new fee agreements for those amounts. If they’re established clients who are coming back to me for more services and more services, then the fee amounts can be adjusted.

The nice thing about having your own firm is that you can take care of these people who are establishing a relationship and coming back to you and continue to be a client, and so we end up … they end up paying me, and I end up helping them, and it works out for everyone.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and, boy, these, the rates you’re quoting, especially in the states where we have attorneys that can offer limited appearance are just lockstep with other attorneys have been quoting that offer unbundled and the limited appearance and so forth, so it’s-

David Gross: That’s great to know.

Dave Aarons: It’s interesting to see that, from all different pathways, attorneys are offering these options and testing and doing different things. It roughly comes out to 500 to 750 to draft the documents. You can take that time, and then you get the limited appearance, 500 to 750 for that.

For those that are listening that want to have this kind of in your face … not in your face … laid out in a clear presentation format, that’s why we did the webinar. It’s on our website, There’s a webinar you can register for. It’s free. We just lay that out on a chart so you can kind of take notes and lay out some of these options and start thinking about how you can integrate these price points.

The other thing I wanted to ask you about, given that you’re doing a lot of these options as flat rates, which we talk a lot about that, and we encourage attorneys to think about doing unbundled as a flat rate, it gives you the capacity to start thinking about how you could become efficient and, like you said, have someone draft it up and so forth.

Have you developed systems? You mentioned software, document automation software, preparation and then also having a paralegal potentially. Obviously, as you’ve grown, you have the capacity to have someone else maybe do certain parts of it. How have you been able to maybe streamline that process so that maybe that $500 to 750 doesn’t necessarily take two or three hours of your time, maybe it only takes one of yours and an hour of someone in your staff that’s paid a little bit lower rate each time to get that out the door and done?

David Gross: Sure. That’s one the big growing pains that I went through is that, as I started getting busier and busier, there were leads that were being sent to me that I was never making contact with, and that’s problematic in a number of ways. One, I don’t think that’s honoring my agreement with Unbundled. Two, when they click on the ad, they see my name and my firm name and, now, they’re seeing this guy who they reached out to no matter through what medium, who’s absolutely ignoring their cry for help. Whether that ends up getting posted on Avvo or on my website or whatever or if it’s just a bad feeling left with someone, that’s not a great public relations move, and it’s not something you want out there. Even making contact with all these folks became a real priority.

I got lucky in finding a legal assistant who is fantastic at her job. I found her reach out and make a lot of those initial contacts with people. We talk a great deal about what is to be said and not said in that process, and we’ve had great success, and I’ve had a lot more people coming in and about a 90 to 95% contact rate as far as the leads we get versus the people who are then contacted by Jessica. At least they’re getting someone on the phone who says, “I received what you sent us, and, uh, let us know how we can help,” and then many of them are signing up to come in for the initial consultation. Having that person on board just for that part has been great.

I’ve heard some of the recent podcasts, especially a woman from San Antonio, who talked about the vital importance of having the attorney reach out to these folks, and I don’t disagree. It’s just not something that I necessarily have the time for at the moment and it’s not something that I’m ready to hand off to anyone else. Jessica and I went through some training about what she’s going to do in that process, and she’s been fantastic at it.

The other part of why I think getting an assistant is vital is the time-saving. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s done this before. She is young, but she’s been doing family law for a couple of years. We use a software system called PeopleSoft and … or FamilySoft. I beg your pardon. It’s I think produced by PeopleSoft or something like that, but FamilySoft is the software that we use. It’s used by just about every law firm that I come into contact with through the courts here in Washington.

Jessica is incredibly familiar with it. She can pop out a proposed parenting plan or the petition to modify or whatever we need just as quickly as I can. She is doing that, and then I edit it and review it, and I end up saving a lot of time there, and I can devote more of my time to the full retainer clients at a billable hour. My firm, just with the addition of her, has become so much more profitable. That was a difficult step for me in my continuing efforts to keep overhead a real low. Bringing this person on board … excuse me … at a salary that I’m now responsible for was a huge leap of faith, but my business has increased. My profitability has increased because of that, and it’s been absolutely invaluable.

I’m glad you asked that question because I’d almost forgotten to talk about Jessica and her value to the firm. I’ve heard other people in your podcasts discuss how important that legal assistant is. My experience, starting my own firm for the first time in my life at 46 and trying to figure out all the business aspects with the guiding principle of keep overhead low and keep profitability up, the added effort and the risk involved in bringing on a legal assistant has paid off in spades, and so, if you can find someone that knows what they’re doing and is good with people, you can just … you can launch your practice and do it on a whole different level.

Dave Aarons: Absolutely. I’m glad we’re getting this thing through as well because I would be completely remiss if we didn’t cover this evolution of growth that you’ve gone through from March of 2015 when we first started to today, and not necessarily just from us, but how you’ve just grown your firm and getting the referrals and everything else, and you’ve gone through phases of … Gosh, and you talked about how that was difficult for you to bring on the next person and make it to the next level and then you hired … then you hired a couple of contract lawyers.

Can you maybe talk about those different phases and what you had to go through to do that and then also how you did it a bit so that those attorneys out there, like you said, are kind of wearing all the hats and they’re the CMO and CEO and might be VP of sales and everything else in between and start to think about how they can start to get out from under that and start hiring and delegating some of these tasks and growing it and, eventually, scaling their firm?

David Gross: Absolutely. For me, it was just a matter of survival and also my theft of my business model from the guys that I worked with in Pennsylvania. I was brought on as a contract attorney working with them and I was paid a portion of every billable hour that was billed and collected to me. When I started getting busier and busier, I’d simply put on an ad in Craigslist seeking contract attorneys and made it clear it’s not a full-time position, it’s not a salaried position and it was just contract work.

From my struggles with employment on the East Coast, I have a pretty good idea what people are getting paid to just go and do countless hours of document review at any given place, and so I was offering more than that hourly for the contract attorneys who come on board, depending on their experience level and how much supervision they’re going to need. Initially-

Dave Aarons: Would you mind sharing briefly what that ad might look like? I don’t mean to interrupt you, I’m sorry, but just …

David Gross: No, not at all.

Dave Aarons: … the details actually help because an attorney might go, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’d like to hire a contract lawyer.” What that rate might look like, what’s the split? Rhonda I know did like a 55 to 45 [inaudible 00:55:07] I think. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but [inaudible 00:55:10].

David Gross: Right. Yeah, I think that’s what she said.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, [inaudible 00:55:13] exactly [inaudible 00:55:13].

David Gross: Yeah. For me, it started off at … I bill my time, and Glenn, the new guy that just came on board, our time is billed out at $300 an hour. For the contract attorneys who come on board, I bill them out at $200 an hour. The rate at which they’re going to get paid is, initially, $75 per billable hour.

It becomes a challenge in the flat fee world because I’m getting this flat fee when I’m asking them to service this client, and then I need to keep track of how much time they’re investing in something. I know what it should take. I don’t want them to spend six hours on something when they’re not going to get paid for that. That’s required a little bit of training and supervision to keep that under control.

For the other work I can give them that is billable, then I bill them out at $200, and I start off paying them that rate. I’ve had a number of them come and go, one, just because her family situation mandated that she sticks with her real estate career because she was being so much more profitable there, and a few who have just not … I learned as a prosecutor trying to train junior deputy prosecutors, the one thing … I mean you can teach anybody how to do closing arguments or opening statements or how to do jury instructions in a responsible way that gets you to what you need. What you can’t teach, you can’t teach someone to give a damn.

I’ve had some trouble finding some of these contract attorneys who just care about my clients and getting the work done, and so I’ve had to part ways with a few people along the way, but I’ve got a fantastic and super reliable contract attorney working here now. Then Glenn just came on board, and we’ve structured his pay in a different way. He gets half of anything that’s billed, and so the firm takes the other half, and I don’t see a lot of that money because the firm is getting it to cover operating cost, but he is worth that to me.

I’m trying to find one of my ads. I can just read it to you, but-

Dave Aarons: Maybe you could just email it in and then [crosstalk 00:57:34] …

David Gross: Oh, absolutely.

Dave Aarons: … to put it up on a page. If you have it handy, you can read through the main thing and just … and then I’ll try to figure out how to get it available so people could take a look at it for those that might want to [crosstalk 00:57:45].

David Gross: Sure thing. Yeah. Yeah, and I’ll keep looking for it even … as long as it doesn’t interfere with what I’m trying to discuss with you.

Dave Aarons: Yeah.

David Gross: It’s pretty straightforward. It’s like, “A growing, busy family law oriented law firm, seeking contract attorney, not a full-time position,” and I make it clear that telecommuting is fine, that kind of thing.

The one thing I didn’t have any problem with was getting a response to it. There are a lot of lawyers out there looking for work. There are a lot of lawyers out there working part-time here and there who are looking for more work. I’ve put the ad out twice and got bombarded with resumes both times.

If I can find it, I’m happy to send it on either to your email or Graham’s, but that’s the nuts and bolts of it. It’s pretty short, pretty straightforward, and then you start getting a wide variety of people responding to it, lawyers fresh out of law school [inaudible 00:58:46] that need a lot of coaching, or lawyers like [Shannon 00:58:52], the one that I’ve got on board now, who’s practiced in a few different states, came home to this area and has a great deal of family law experience, and I can trust her with anything. The only thing that we needed to focus on is not overworking and overthinking some things.

Those are the things that she is the first one to tell you, that this is where I run into trouble sometimes is that I’ll spend 12 hours on something that could have taken me an hour and a half. Getting her focused on that has been … Her struggle, for me, I couldn’t be happier with what she does, but the … That’s how I structure the rates as far as what I bill out and what I pay them.

I will err on the side of paying the contract attorney for their time even if it bites into my profitability a bit. That may not be the smartest business thing in the world to do, but I’ve seen the value of having a quality attorney work for me that I could trust with my stuff versus having lawyers that just really don’t care much about the work product or the client. I’m happy to make that adjustment when there’s somebody here who I want to keep them on board.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, there’s-

David Gross: Yeah.

Dave Aarons: There’s so much here. I mean, we could probably do a full round two just on sourcing, interviewing, hiring, firing.

David Gross: Yeah, probably.

Dave Aarons: I mean, there’s so much that we …

David Gross: Yeah.

Dave Aarons: I certainly could give feedback on that from the experience I’ve had on the business and so forth. I guess the final piece was you’ve gone from, you went from hiring an assistant, a couple of contract lawyers, and I think recently you brought on … You sound like an operations team or guys that were helping you start looking at the numbers.

David Gross: Sure.

Dave Aarons: Maybe you could share a little bit about that next phase where you’re like, “Okay, you know, things are really running well, but let’s take a closer look at, you know, what our numbers and, and analyzing things from a statistical standpoint, just start thinking about what, what those next moves should be and at what point they should, should come.”

David Gross: Yeah. Again, it’s one of those fortuitous occurrences, sort of the way Unbundled and I stumbled into each other. If I can take this to [inaudible 01:01:05], when I was on the East Coast, I had a number of referral services I worked with. They were the kind where, okay, someone gets puffed for DUI, they reach out to u. We’re going to send this out to three or for attorneys in this county, and then you pay for that referral, but then you have to find it out, and good luck to you.

I paid hundreds of dollars to those kinds of referral companies and never even received a phone call from a client. I would low ball it. Get nothing. I would highball it and emphasize my vast experience as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer and a law professor and get nothing. It didn’t matter the approach. I never got any response.

Then Unbundled came to me with this proposal of a referral service, and I was skeptical because of my experience, but-

Dave Aarons: Clarification aside, not a lawyer for all service, advertising [inaudible 01:01:56].

David Gross: Exactly. Yeah, and so I’m the only guy that Unbundled contracts within the county, and I get to choose which other counties I expand to. At the moment, I’m covering a number of neighboring counties as well, but they’re much smaller, so I get very few referrals from those. That’s how I decided to go with Unbundled, and it’s been just a real boon.

The other lucky thing was one of these times I put out an ad for a contract attorney, I got a response from a woman responding on behalf of her husband, and it was very strange because she was like acting like a headhunter for her husband. He ended up being the guy that now works here, Glenn, and he had been through in the course of their moves a couple of times during his career, and that’s a long, long story that doesn’t matter to anybody, he’s been through starting a firm and growing a firm or joining another firm that’s in its infancy and helping it just grow like gangbusters. His wife is a consultant and a real estate agent as well, but also a business consultant, and so she decided to come on board and help me out.

I went from being a solo guy to having two and, occasionally, three contract attorneys down to one really good contract attorney to then having an assistant and my contract attorney and me, and now I’ve got myself and Glenn, who’s on full-time, and I still have the contract attorney as well and my assistant and, now, there’s this business consultant who, between her and her husband, Glenn, they’ve been through growing law firms before.

We’re now working on getting two websites going, one that focuses on family law, one that focuses on the criminal defense part of my practice so that, when people are going and looking for a family lawyer, they’re not seeing a guy who does family and criminal. They’re looking for a guy who does family law. We’re working on that and we’re working on measuring the practice in a meaningful way, whether it’s by the number of clients we have, the number of hours billed or amount of money taken in a given month. We’re working on the process of analyzing those things to decide which one to start using as a metric that will tell us when to next hire a business operations manager.

The women that you talked to from Oklahoma seemed to have this great system, where they do the client work and then the business operations person talks about money with them, and then someone else is also monitoring their accounts and keeping in touch with those folks to replenish their trust fund or their trust account or start working on, “Okay, we need to start looking at cutting our work down or stopping our work and withdrawing,” or whatever.

That kind of person will probably be the next step. At the moment, I outsource the bookkeeping, and that’s fine. They generate reports that are useful for my accountant, but not terribly useful as far as trying to decide what to do and, of course, they do anything else like client contact or anything like that. The next person will probably be someone who does the bookkeeping and business operations, but those decisions will be based on the amount of work that we have and the profitability that comes from that.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely, and certainly running a business as a solo, it’s pretty hard to be keeping tabs on numbers and analysis and all these types of things because you’re trying to just get the work done, field new leads, tell that person to do that and all that other stuff.

At another level, now, that you’ve been able to delegate and you have such a great team behind you and, obviously, that’s taken a lot of time and work and starting to be able to look at those numbers and hire those people that can really help to streamline your growth and take things to the next level, the value of knowing those numbers is really key. I’m glad that you’re able to get to the point where you’re able to be looking at those things at that level.

David Gross: Yeah, it’s going to mean a great deal. I mean, it’d be nice to be able to know at the drop of a hat how many clients I’m working with, what our numbers were last month as far as billable hours, money collected, that sort of thing, but, yeah, I’ve been doing, even with the addition of these other lawyers and with my assistant, I’ve still been handling my own full caseload and trying to do all the business stuff. There hasn’t been time to take a step back and spend all the time necessary to really start tracking that kind of stuff in a meaningful way.

Now that I’ve got this building team on board, we’re getting into that place where we can grow in a responsible way. I’ve been sort of growing as necessary, and part of that has been just from the sense that I’ve got too much work, I’m not taking care of clients, and part of it, a very small part of it has been from a profitability standpoint, what can I afford and not afford. A lot of it has been intuitive, and so now we’re at the stage where we’re looking at expanding. The firm is doing well. I’m very fortunate with that, but how can we expand in a responsible way so we don’t overstretch and overextend ourselves. I mean, obviously, that could kill any small business.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and it’s a different set of challenges. If there’s one thing, it’s just practicing law. This other thing is running a business, being a small business owner and scaling a law firm, and it’s challenging. You don’t learn this stuff necessarily in law school. I mean, here’s how to do billable hours and so forth, but a lot of attorneys really struggle, especially the ones we work with, on being able to analyze your numbers, when to grow, how to hire a contract lawyer. That’s some of the benefits that are being … Listening to this podcast is we have attorneys go and talk about how to make this next phases.

By the way, for those that are listening, the episode he’s referring to is the interview we did with Rhonda Telford Naidu. The episode I think is called Scaling Your Law Practice from Solo to Small Firm In a Certain Amount of Time, I think. She talks a lot about these systems that they’ve had to develop because they were taking on so many more clients from our leads and so forth that they had to find ways to get new contract lawyers, get more office space, expanding to new cities, like you said, hiring that business manager where they’re only talking … they talk to clients just about their case, and then they have someone else entirely that talks to them about money so they don’t have to have that relationship be two different things.

Just like a chiropractor, when you go to your chiropractor, normally, if they have an assistant or something, they take care … the assistant takes care of the billable contracts, and then you go meet with the chiropractor. They serve you, then you go out and you take care of your bill. In a similar light, there’s this additional hire you could have so that that communication isn’t one about economics. It’s just solely committed to “how do I serve this client,” and it can really make a big difference.

David Gross: Yeah, and my level of respect for Todd, the guy I work with in Pennsylvania, has grown immeasurably because he’s still … he’s got a partner, but it’s him and his partner, and they do all the business stuff and all the client work. I had absolutely no idea what was involved in that until I jumped in and tried to do it all myself.

Just keeping track of all of it was all new to me because I was … I came out of law school and I was a government lawyer, and I loved that job and it was great, but that’s not my world anymore and I have all these other concerns. Yeah, it’s been this … That episode you were just talking about, they had this great system in place, and I’d love to be there. We’re working on getting there, but it has … This has been a late-in-life learning process for me. It’s been challenging at times, and we’ve had a few hurdles to clear, but it’s been great. Unbundled Attorneys has really, really kept my doors open and paid the rent more often than not.

Dave Aarons: Thanks, man. I’m certainly humbled and glad that we’ve been able to have contributed to your growth in that light, and I thank you for the acknowledgment. Also, thank you for taking the time today to share so openly about the options you’ve been offering your clients, the price points and the challenges you’ve had to overcome with this growth and, certainly, that your [inaudible 01:10:43] for limited appearances is really valuable for those attorneys that are starting to consider offering that in the states that are now allowing it.

Thank you for taking the time today and just being so helpful and forthright with everything that you’ve gone through to get to where you’re at. I’m really excited to see the trajectory you’re on and where that’s going to take you over the next months 2017.

David Gross: It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad we did this finally, Dave.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Yeah, it feels good, Dave, so thanks. I’m certainly glad we had the chance to talk, so thanks again for coming on.

For everyone else who has been listening to the podcast, we, as always, really appreciate your participating and learning and taking good notes and applying it in your practice and sharing with other people that you think could benefit. It certainly supports the show, but, really, everything we do here is in support of you being able to learn the best strategies for offering unbundled legal services and more affordable options to your practice, grow the success of firms and make a difference at the same time. Thanks again for listening, and we will certainly see you all on the next episode.

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Episode 22: Chronicling the Journey From a New Solo Practice to a Small Law Firm: Limited Appearances, Hiring Contract Lawyers, and Scaling Up a Practice

After many years working as a prosecuting attorney and then as a contract lawyer for a firm on the east coast, David Gross decided to start his own practice out of Vancouver, WA, in March of 2015. In this episode David chronicles his firm’s growth from solo practitioner and “wearing all the hats,” to the small firm he has now, along with the many challenges he has overcome along the way. He shares valuable insights on the best practices for offering limited appearances, including what pitfalls to avoid. He also gives some very practical advice on how to hire contract lawyers and scale from solo practitioner to a small law firm.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The unbundled document services David offers and how he explains these services to his clients
  • The benefits and pricing considerations involved in offering limited appearances, as well as common pitfalls to avoid
  • How to provide a limited appearance in court on paperwork that you didn’t prepare
  • The value of preparing a fresh written declaration when clients have already prepared and filed their own
  • How to coach pro se litigants on how to represent themselves in court
  • How to leverage legal technology and software to streamline many tasks in your practice
  • The value of hiring an assistant to help with administrative tasks and document preparation
  • How to source and hire excellent contract lawyers, and the valuable lessons David learned from mistakes he made along the way
  • The most important metrics to measure and keep track of in your practice, and how they can inform your decisions
  • And much more...

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