Michigan & Illinois: Flat Fees, Automated Forms and Affordable Payment Plans Combine to Create a Profitable Practice for Modest Means Clients
Access Legal Care is a Michigan and Illinois law firm, founded by Bert Tiger Whitehead, MBA, Esq., that offers both Limited Scope Representation (LSR), as well as Full-Representation. Mr. Whitehead founded the firm in 2011 and specifically designed it to increase access to legal representation for low and moderate income individuals who do not qualify for legal aid but cannot afford legal representation under the traditional model. The firm combines technology, innovative principles and payment practices, and limited scope representation and flat fees wherever possible.
Whitehead’s innovative approach was recognized in 2013 when Access Legal Care received the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services’ prestigious Louis M. Brown award. This award recognizes innovating programs and projects to increase affordable access to legal services for those of moderate income, who do not qualify for legal aid yet lack the discretionary funds to pay the traditional costs of legal services.
Limited Services Representation -- an effective and affordable start to your case
Costs: See Current Fee Schedule
Approximately 80% of Access Legal Care’s clients start out as LSR, with about half of them later retaining the firm for full-representation, usually because an appearance needs to be entered. All clients are charged a flat case-fee to open a case, generally under $500.00.
Many of the firm’s cases are successfully resolved for the initial flat fee.
If needed, additional self-help Pro Per attorney support is available for an additional few hundred dollars for up to two hours of Attorney advice and/or services at our low hourly rate, billed in 3-minute increments. When that flat-fee runs out, the client can pay another few hundred dollars for another two hours of assistance, and so on.
Full Representation -- there if you need it; affordably priced payment plans.
Costs: See Current Fee Schedule
Full representation is available for clients who need the attorney to conduct negotiations, communicate with opposing counsel, and make court appearances.
Full representation generally requires an initial retainer, spread out over three payments, and then a weekly payment plan (automatically withdrawn from the client's bank account, not credit card) until all fees are paid. All deposits go into Trust and are applied towards actual fees which are 40-60% less expensive than typical attorneys.
Once the case is cover, any surplus is refunded to the client. If there is a deficit, the client can either stay on the weekly payment plan, or they can pay the full balance owed within 30 days for a 25% discount off the balance.
See our blog post, "Understanding your Legal Fees and Payment Options."
The low self-help and full-representation retainers are attractive to clients who have often received quotes from other attorneys charging initial retainers of $1500-5,000 and whom only offer full-representation. In addition, the pay-up-front for all retainers, the pay-as-you-go model for self-help, and the monthly payment plan for full-representation, supported by automatic-withdrawal, have resulted in a 97% collection rate, keeping the model feasible for both attorneys and their clients.
Success of Limited Scope Representation
Whitehead reports that LSR has allowed him to launch and maintain a successful practice providing services for modest means clients throughout the state. In the last 5 years, Access Legal Care has provided free legal consultations and affordable legal services to thousands of clients in Michigan, Illinois, and many other states and countries (who have Michigan and Illinois matters).
He utilizes several independent-contractor Primary Care Attorneys to provide self-help and full-representation services, and several as-needed independent-contractor "Litigation Attorneys" to cover non-evidentiary hearings in remote areas. Services provided are the 80% of legal services that lower- and moderate-income people likely will ever need from an attorney over their lifetimes, such as family law, criminal law, estate planning, probate, small business and non-profit formation, civil litigation, and bankruptcy.