Invest in the development of your people — That could take a lot of different forms. One of the forms it takes for us is we do team book studies, and then we do reflection calls. So we read books together and then reflect, think about how we can apply some of the wisdom and principles in these books towards the development of our company, ourselves, and the way that we relate to each other..
In the world of business and within every industry, there are forward-thinking leaders who go against the status quo and find success. Their courage to take risks, embrace innovation, and inspire collaboration separates them from the competition. Until 2002, Apple’s famous slogan was “Think Different”. This attitude likely helped them become one of the most successful organizations in history. This interview series aims to showcase visionary leaders and their “status quo-breaking” approach to doing business. As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Aarons.
Dave Aarons is the co-founder and CEO of Unbundled Legal Help, a platform that connects individuals with attorneys who offer affordable legal services — ranging from unbundled “a la carte” support to full representation on a budget-friendly payment plan. Dave also hosts the Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast, during which he interviews attorneys who share practices for ethically and profitably delivering unbundled legal services and other affordable options in their practice. He is an avid traveler, competitive golfer, and passionate about helping inspire a new era of purpose-driven and socially conscious entrepreneurs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m originally from Vancouver, British Columbia. I grew up with a single mom with two kids. Played a lot of ice hockey because most boys in Canada have skates on their feet, sometimes before they even learn how to walk — I’m certainly one of those guys.
Growing up without a father I sought out mentors. One of those mentors got me involved in the legal business, marketing services that were trying to get legal help to people in an affordable way but unfortunately just weren’t accomplishing that very consistently. So that began my entrepreneurial journey to solve what is one of the biggest social problems that face this country, which is access to affordable legal care.
Can you give us a glimpse into your journey into this industry and share a story about one of the most significant challenges you faced when you first started out? How did you end up resolving that challenge?
We started this journey working with legal access plans. Basically, they’re a membership program that’s available to consumers and gives them access to a network of large law firms across the United States.
The idea was that the services the plans were providing were going to be at a discount, like 25% off on a standard law firm retainer or hourly rate. So that’s a nice benefit. But you know, when lawyers typically charge a $5,000 to $10,000 retainer to get started with a family law case, even with a discount it’s still $3,500 to $4,000 to get started. For most folks, average working families, the discount just wasn’t making the difference.
So a significant challenge was that the services that we were offering to the public were not making a difference to the client. We weren’t providing their services in a way that would actually get them a lawyer they could afford to help them with their case.
The way we overcame this is we started working with attorneys that would provide a client with some help instead of no help at all. They would provide clients with documents, give them advice, help them prepare their legal arguments, and put them in a better position to represent themselves. That service could typically charge someone $500 to $1,000 instead of $5,000. That actually was affordable for an average family, and so that really started to help a lot of people.
That became the ethos of Unbundled Attorney — building a whole network of attorneys that provide “unbundled” a la carte services so people can get help with just a piece of their case, or later on obtain full representation on a budget-friendly payment plan.
Who has been the most significant influence in your business journey, and what is the most significant lesson or insight you have learned from them?
I’d probably say, Jim Rohn. He was a business philosopher and educator. I was exposed to him in the early days of my business and he got us all on the path of personal development, personal growth, taking responsibility for creating our lives consciously and with design.
Jim discussed taking ownership of acquiring the skills and capabilities that we needed in order to create real value for the world — to be someone who values not only achievement but also contribution to your family, community, and society as a whole. As you develop more capabilities you can have a greater and greater impact. He was a pretty profound and influential man in the lives of many people, myself included.
Can you share a story about something specific that happened early on that you would consider a failure but ended up being a blessing in disguise or ended up being one of the most valuable lessons you had to learn on your own?
What comes to mind has to do with the core operating ethos of our organization. There was a little bit of back and forth on whether we should be profit-first or purpose-driven. Our origination had always been to be of service to the clients first, along with our attorneys, and then the positive outcomes would therefore benefit the company.
There was some pushback around some of the investments we were making on the purpose side from our leadership — so we shifted for a period of time to be more of a high-performance, team profit-driven business.
I found it to be dehumanizing to the people we were working with. We were losing touch with our core aims as an organization, and what we were trying to create and invest into opportunities to create real value and make a difference in the lives of people we serve. It really became just about money and profit. That was such a disturbing, unnerving experience that I would have rather not run the company at all.
Fortunately, we were able to have a good meeting of the minds amongst all of our leadership and reshift the core direction of the organization back on the path of its originating principles. Since then, everyone has felt much more aligned. And everyone has felt much more empowered to create the kinds of change we’re trying to seek in the legal industry for the people that we affect.
So it was a difficult decision but ultimately was a valuable experience to get clear on who we are and what it is that we stand for.
Leading anything is hard, especially when grappling with a difficult situation where it seems that no matter what you decide, it will have a negative impact on those around you. Can you share a story about a situation you faced that required making a “hard call” or a tough decision between two paths?
What comes to mind right away is our period of time during COVID. There were a lot of lawyers and members of the team who were really struggling and had a lot of uncertainty about the future. They worried about their businesses, supporting their families, and how they were going to continue to thrive amidst a pandemic.
The hard call was that our Director of Attorney Support and I kind of switched to the front lines and started manning the inbound line of all calls coming to the company. We started doubling down on communication to all those attorneys we were working with, to our entire team, making sure they knew we had their backs, we were going to support them through this challenge, and that also we were going to continue to provide access to clients, resource them any way we could, and we were all in this together.
As a result, we were able to right the ship and unify the team around a shared commitment to truly showing up for the people that we were working with. As well as making sure that we were as focused and productive as we possibly could be around that period to make sure that we thrived for the people we were serving.
Let’s shift our focus to the core of this interview about ‘Successful Rule Breakers’. Why did you decide to “break the rules”? Early on, did you identify a particular problem or issue in how businesses in your industry generally operated? What specifically compelled you to address this and want to do things differently? Please share how you went about implementing those changes and the impact they had.
In the early days, I saw there were a handful of attorneys in the network who seemed able to assist in any case, successfully serving around 5 times more clients than the rest of the crowd. I dug deeper and saw that on their own, they were pioneering unbundled legal services — doing a la carte work like document preparation and helping clients prepare a case and charging it one step at a time, or providing full representation with an affordable payment plan, and basically just meeting the client where they are financially.
So that’s when we decided to start building a network of attorneys that could deliver services in this uniquely affordable, yet also highly profitable way. It’s beneficial for both the attorneys and the clients. Once we built out the platform to connect the clients to the attorneys in a seamless way, things started really working well, and it’s been quite a scaling journey ever since.
In the ever-changing business landscape, how exactly do you decide when to adhere to industry norms versus “breaking the rules” and forging your own way? Can you share an example?
You make decisions based on who it is that you’re truly in service of, and how you can go about helping them accomplish their goals and aims from a standpoint of integrity and genuine contribution.
For us, we developed services and products that bridged that gap that existed for clients to ensure they have a way to get the legal services they need in a way that they can afford. Now they can accomplish their goals and show up for their kids, or whatever it is they’re trying to seek help with legally.
At the time the traditional models of legal representation were not meeting those needs. We had to innovate new ways to provide support to those clients. It just so happened that at the same time, the legal system and law associations had similar aims to make it lawful to start to work with clients on a more limited basis and provide the unbundled legal services that we were developing with our attorneys. We didn’t have to go against any of the ethical rules because those ethical rules had already been implemented. There was just a lack of adherence or actual embracing of that new ethos in the industry.
At the end of the day you need to be very clear on who you’re trying to serve; and what it is that they’re trying to accomplish; and then align all your services, products, and endeavors towards meeting those needs — and working with the industry around you to align their policies and decisions to make sure that people you serve are at the forefront of their minds.
What guidance or insight can you offer to new entrepreneurs trying to follow existing and accepted industry norms while at the same time trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace?
If you’re always trying to follow existing norms, you’re looking backward at what’s already been created.
True innovators who bring forth new possibilities work from vision. They start to imagine the world in a way that is different or evolved from the way it is now and start working towards bringing that vision into reality. They develop products, services, and solutions that will be the bridge from our current realities to where they need to evolve.
It’s starting with the end in mind, then working backward to tether to where you are now, and then figuring out a plan in order to get there.
To make an impact, you have to champion change, get creative, and take risks. Please think back about the decisions you’ve made that have helped your business get to where it is today, and share your top 5 strategies or decisions that helped you succeed by doing things differently.
1 . Invest in the development of your people — That could take a lot of different forms. One of the forms it takes for us is we do team book studies, and then we do reflection calls. So we read books together and then reflect, and think about how we can apply some of the wisdom and principles in these books towards the development of our company, ourselves, and the way that we relate to each other.
2 . Cultivate consciousness — Consciousness is regenerative, meaning that we are constantly refreshing the way we look at and think about our organization and how it is we are operating it. That means constantly questioning and disrupting our automatic ways of thinking about how things should be done, just because that’s how things have always been. The world is ever-evolving; the marketplace is ever-evolving; our thinking and operations need to evolve with it.
3 . Self-discipline/self-learning — A keystone of growth and development is being able to be aware of areas in which you have unique talents and gifts, and also the areas in which you have weaknesses or foibles; and then attract or acquire the books, resources, associations, people, or skills that are needed to uplevel your capability and your thinking. That’s a lifelong process. It begins with an attitude of self-responsibility and discipline to always be applying yourself in wholehearted ways towards your own personal development, which will have a beneficial impact on you and everyone around you as well.
4 . Be strategic — This has to do with taking time to think carefully (and sometimes linearly) about what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, remembering what your core aims are, grounding into those aims consistently, and looking at those challenges that you’re facing in your growing organization. Try prioritizing what the most important challenges are and then creating an immediate action plan that starts with the very next thing you should be focusing on right now to start moving the needle on those core challenges. It’s important to take the time to evaluate how it is to use your time, where the best utilization of your attention and energies are, to focus wholeheartedly and single-mindedly on those core elements so you can effectuate real change in your organization.
5 . Hire and surround yourself with amazing humans — You can’t accomplish great things alone. One of the most important aspects of building a great organization is who you work and choose to surround yourself with. Take the time to research thoroughly, prospect widely, and interview deeply.
Also, don’t be afraid to work with your friends, and work with people you care about too. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. One of the great thrills and benefits if you can make it happen is to be able to work with your best friends. That way you don’t really feel like you’re at work. You just feel like you’re doing good work while hanging out with the people you most enjoy spending time with.
As a leader, how do you rally others to align with your vision? Also, how do you identify those who may not be fully committed or even silently sabotaging or undermining your efforts? What steps do you take to address these situations?
Our vision is constantly evolving, and it’s also co-created.
You can’t lead an organization with just your own vision alone, otherwise, that’s just a dictatorship. A vision requires regular contributions from all the team members.
So there is no rallying to “my” vision. There’s only a listening to, collaborating with, and then developing a vision alongside all of those who are involved in your organization. When you can co-create a vision, everyone feels aligned and excited about it.
Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?
We have implemented and utilized the best possible technology and resources that we have available to us to support our teams, attorneys, and clients by being the best at resourcing the people that they are responsible for helping.
That could mean a better communication platform, better support resources, and training, it could be bringing on ever more effective people and great talent that can help us work more effectively as a team and with the aim in mind looking back to serve a whole lot more folks on the platform — which is a challenge, and so our systems and our teams and our technology have continued to evolve to be of genuine service to a whole lot more folks.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It’s important to recognize that entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful vehicles to social change and for impacting the social problems that face our world.
It has the power of money, strategic thinking, and influence, and has the power to affect and reach millions of people.
So it’s important to consider as an entrepreneur your role in not only generating profits and achieving your goals financially but also how you can align your organization to make a significant and substantive impact on the people you serve.
If we can selectively evolve the way we think about entrepreneurship and what the core purpose is of building a new enterprise to include contribution and impact as one of the core guiding principles, then we stand to make a tremendous and substantive impact on some of the most challenging problems that affect our society.
How can our readers continue to follow you or your company online?
We’re constantly producing new articles and resources that people seeking legal help can access online via our website, www.unbundledlegalhelp.com.
You can better understand your rights, legal options, and get some of your questions answered.
When you’re in need of an additional level of legal support from an attorney to help guide you along that path or represent you and advocate for your rights, you can use the site to connect with an Unbundled Lawyer in your area that provides services for the type of case you’re needing help with.
We are also looking for attorneys who are interested in growing their practice and learning more about how to build a practice that generates consistent revenue and achieves financial goals while providing service to average working folks in a way they might otherwise not be able to access it.
We encourage attorneys to visit www.unbundledattorney.com, listen to an episode of our podcast, hear from other attorneys who have successfully implemented the services that we have available, and reach out to us if you’d like to explore becoming part of the community.
Thank you so much for sharing all of these insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is an accomplished entrepreneur and visionary leader. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc., while attending Ohio State University and grew it to become an industry outlier before selling the business after 25 successful years. With the launch of his second venture, [re]start, a career development platform, Chad aimed to help people find meaningful career opportunities. Under his leadership, his team was recognized as a “Top Workplace” award winner for over a decade, twice being ranked the #1 small and medium-sized business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023, enabling him to focus on building an online community of high-performing leaders and continuing to make a positive impact in people’s lives.