Just back from the ABA’s family law conference where I gave a talk on asset searching, I heard a wonderful talk from the “father of unbundling” of legal services, Forrest “Woody” Mosten. He is a high priced divorce lawyer practicing in Beverly Hills, and yet makes a great living in never going to court.

Instead, he lets others do that and spends a lot of time working for an hour or two at a time for clients who can’t (or won’t) pay the kinds of top-dog rates that many lawyers know are meeting such resistance (even from people who could afford to pay but just don’t feel like it).

Unbundling for a family lawyer may look like this: A two-hour meeting to lay out strategy that someone less expensive could handle, or that a divorcing person may take into court during self-representation.

The key thing to remember about unbundling is not that the results people get are just as good as if the top-priced lawyer had done all the work for them. It’s that the alternative is that they won’t hire you at all.

I realized that without thinking about it, our firm had been unbundling for years. We are always happy to take a quick look for a couple of hours and then see what preliminary findings we come up with. As long as you are up front that a two-hour investigation is not the same as the first two hours of a ten-hour engagement, your cost-conscious client may be happy for the smaller bit of work they can afford.

Unbundling is not a new concept, but what was so surprising to me was that this seemed to be the first time the 80 lawyers in the room were encountering the concept. There was stiff resistance at first, but in the end, this seemed to soften.

Mosten says you may want to sell them a Cadillac, but it’s better to sell them a Chevy because otherwise they’ll have to walk.

Unbundling is not for everyone – not for every provider or consumer of services. But if any service professional is there serve clients, sometimes a bumpy ride is better than no ride at all.