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A Lawyer For $17.17

A Lawyer For $17.17

Local firms find ways to compete with online law biz.

Attorney Bob Fafinski is pleading guilty—to concocting a “gimmick” to attract business.

He’s CEO of the Eden Prairie-based law firm Fafinski Mark and Johnson, which is running a special for fledgling businesses through May. A startup will only be charged $17.17 for the legal work the firm’s lawyers do to prepare and file incorporation documents and advise young companies.

The 27-attorney firm has been operating for 17 years. That’s where Fafinski came up with the $17.17 price; he tacked on the 17 cents because the cut-rate deals are available in 2017.

Fafinski, who started practicing in 1983, says, “When I was a young lawyer, we were [incorporating] new businesses two or three a week sometimes.” But there’s been a drop-off in demand for these services.

As a commercial law firm, he says, “our lifeblood is relationships with people that own businesses,” so he wants to attract the attention of those who want to form LLCs and S corporations. “As law firms we are competing with online legal services,” he says, and some people choose to complete their own incorporation documents that must be filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State.

The cut-rate legal services already are attracting more young businesses. “What we are hoping is that out of the companies that we [incorporate], some will stick with us long-term,” Fafinski says. “We will be available to them when they have more compelling issues and need more sophisticated advice.”

Fafinski adds that the special is helping some of his young associates generate clients. “Some of my clients today are people I incorporated 30 years ago.”

Terrie Wheeler, founder and president of Professional Services Marketing, characterizes the Fafinski approach as “forward-thinking” and “very novel.” (Fafinski is not a client.) Wheeler, whose national company is based in Rush City, Minn., has worked with attorneys on marketing strategies for more than 25 years.

Wheeler cites a legal industry credo: If you want my expertise, you pay me. But she endorses Fafinski’s “loss leader” approach: “They are acknowledging a highly competitive legal marketplace. . . . . They are trying to compete with the websites and people who think they can just do this online themselves.”