Alternative Models for Law Practices

By: Lori T. Williams, Esq., Oakland County Legal News Examiner

Like many industries, the legal profession has had to undergo some significant changes in the last two years to stay competitive, and in some cases to stay afloat.  Some Solo and small firm attorneys have learned to be nimble and carve out a niche that responds to the needs of their clients, and which fulfills their own interests and passions.

Jeff Paulsen created a contract general counsel model for his practice in 2008, located in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  His 25 year legal career includes in-house counsel work managing a global law department for a Fortune 500 Company; working as a business services Partner for one of the Top 10 Law Firms in Detroit; and for the past 2 years acting as contract general counsel for middle market companies in a variety of industries, who do not have an in-house counsel.  From Paulsen’s vantage point, having worked with law firms around the world as in-house counsel and as a partner in a large law firm practice, he sees a misalignment in the goals of outside counsel and in-house counsel.  “Businesses need to drive costs down by delivering more efficient products and services at lower costs”, says Paulsen.  “Yet outside legal counsel has traditionally raised their rates to cover increasing internal costs, and there is reward and increased revenue to do so.”  Paulsen feels he brings a fresh approach to the general counsel model by providing value to the client at the most reasonable cost, and based on results.  Most attorneys bill for their time, not their results.  Paulsen feels, “superior results to clients will yield repeat business.”   

After 15 years in a civil litigation practice working for two of the Top 20 law firms in Michigan, attorney Elizabeth Sokol,  decided to form her own practice in Royal Oak, MI.  Initially her focus was on corporate and business transactional work and some litigation. However, in the past year she has chosen to focus on supporting other attorneys through research and writing of motions, briefs, and appeals, as well as covering depositions and oral arguments.  Sokol enjoys the flexibility her current practice provides, and feels she’s working in her area of strength by focusing more on research and writing.  Sokol says, “the law firms that contract out these services to me save themselves time and money, which frees them up to do the things they enjoy in their practice.  Law firms are looking to be more efficient with their time, and their clients expect that these days.” 

Maximillian Matthies recently relocated his practice to Ferndale, MI from California, when his wife received a job offer from Wayne State University.  Matthies had been successfully using the contract counsel model in California for 4 years as a general practitioner, and felt comfortable starting his Michigan practice the same way.  He works with clients directly, and handles overflow work and project based work for solo practitioners and law firms in the areas of civil litigation, business transactions, family law, probate, real estate, and employment law.  “One perk of this type of practice”, says Matthies “is that my wife and I can travel together in the summers when she has time away from the University.”

These attorneys have created practices they enjoy, and they experience flexibility and fun outside their practice too, all while serving the needs of their clients efficiently and cost effectively.

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Lori T. Williams is an attorney based in Birmingham, MI, licensed in 1989.  As owner of a legal referral business called Your Legal Resource, PLLC, Lori personally assists individuals and small businesses in need of legal advice or representation in Metro Detroit by connecting them with the right legal specialist to meet their needs. Click here for a pdf of legal referral services. 

Through group training and events, Lori also focuses on referral marketing strategies for attorneys and other professionals. For more information about Lori or Your Legal Resource, visit  For networking events, training programs, and workshop information, visit:


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