[In the interest of full disclosure, you need to know that I am the president of the Legis, Inc., but I did not become the president and then started dealing with the outsourcing of legal documents for my firm. I have been using the same outsourcing system and documents for years. It was only afterwards that I was asked to work to grow Legis, Inc., primarily through the estate planning educational materials I have created and by teaching estate planning techniques to attorneys. I came to the decision to outsource most estate planning documents long before becoming the president of Legis, Inc.]
The printing and binding of documents takes away valuable staff time, including an attorney’s time, in making sure that the documents are printed correctly, there are no printer jams or half-pages, and everything is correctly stapled and organized. While this seems like a relatively inexpensive process, having the best documents available in a complete plan takes a lot more time than using a 20-30 page trust and a few 2-3 page ancillary documents. In all, the Legis trust system we use has about 400-500 pages printed on average. To organize all of that takes away from time my staff could be using to organize seminars, plan client appreciation events, and keeping the office moving in the right direction. Not to mention talking with clients to keep them happy.
But by far the biggest savings in terms of time and quality is that outsourcing document production to the right company can save a lot of time in making sure the documents are the best available for all 50 states. As an attorney in North Carolina, I keep on top of the various laws regarding trusts and estates in my state, and I do pass along information to Legis about new laws and developments. In a mobile society, though, the chance that my clients under 50 years old will remain in North Carolina is only about 50%. I would like for the trust system I provide to translate well to the 49 other states should they move so they will not have to start the process over in their new home state. By outsourcing document production, I don’t have to research the other 49 states because it is being done for me.
I do want to be clear on the outsourcing of documents in general. You should examine the standard documents for yourself before committing to work with a document production company. I have reviewed several companies that approached me, and in all of those cases I found my own documents to be superior in most aspects. But when I reviewed the Legis documents and found them to be better than my own documents, I knew I had a company to work with. Unless you review the standard documents yourself and find them to your standards, then outsourcing the documents to that company is not for your practice.
The Creation and Transmission of Educational Materials
While I tend to write a lot of my own educational materials, I have also shared them with Legis as part of the offerings they provide to attorneys. I currently have six books available on amazon.com, but I have created specific versions for Legis, Inc. at greatly discounted rates that are designed to be used as handouts for attorneys to give their clients. I have also developed seminars and, in a few cases, podcasts that can be used by attorneys to provide information to their clients. They are all available to attorneys as part of the outsourcing process. Rather than discussing the benefits and processes of an IRA Trust individually with each client, it is probably more time-effective (and therefore cost-effective) to give them the book The IRA Trust and then review the concepts later. It is certainly more time-effective than writing a book on this topic yourself when one is available inexpensively.
While I am extremely proud of the books I have written, I would be naïve to think that I am the only author or that mine were the only books you would consider providing to your clients as information and education pieces. In fact, the best and most complete book I have read on revocable living trusts is still the same book that got me into the field of life and estate planning back in law school, which is The Living Trust by Henry W. Abts III. However, it is large and a little intimidating for some of my clients as an introduction to revocable living trusts. But for some of my clients, I keep a few copies around in case they are interested in learning a lot more.
Again, it is critical to note that outsourced educational materials are conversation starters for your clients, and not substitutes for the conversation itself. A book can not replace an attorney’s good advice. But having the basics on paper can convey a lot of information that you can later summarize and work through specific questions with your client. In practices that are primarily focused on estate planning, saving some time in the general estate planning education of clients can allow you to spend more time on the specifics with your clients as well as finding new clients.
As legal fields of practice become more focused and specialized, it is more important than ever for small firms that practice preventative care like estate planning to manage their time effectively. Being able to outsource certain non-legal aspects of the life and estate planning process makes good business sense, provided it is only the non-legal functions that are delegated to non-attorneys.
Jeffrey G. Marsocci is a life and estate planning attorney licensed in North Carolina as well as being the president of Legis, Inc. He is also the author of several books available on Amazon.com, including The Anti-Probate Revolution, Estate Planning for Domestic Partners, and The IRA Trust. Mr. Marsocci can be reached through his law office at 919-844-7993 and more information is available on his firm’s website at www.livingtrustlawfirm.com.