When Lewis Rice made the rare decision to launch a subsidiary law firm last September, it took aim at a statistic that shocked Thomas Erb, the firm’s chairman. Less than half of Americans have a will or trust.
TuckerAllen, a lower-cost subsidiary of St. Louis-based regional firm Lewis Rice, offers free consultations and two all-inclusive estate plan packages: Wills are priced at $550 and trusts cost $950 for individuals. Those price points are hard to achieve within the traditional law firm model.
Ten months in, the experiment is showing signs of success. TuckerAllen, which launched with 10 lawyers and 13 staff, said it has so far served more than 1,000 clients. TuckerAllen has also opened two more locations since its September launch, bringing its number of offices to six around the St. Louis area.
This week, TuckerAllen announced its acquisition of a local law practice that is focused on elder law. The firm added five lawyers to its ranks after bolting on The Elder & Disability Advocacy Firm of Christine Alsop. Lewis Rice’s Erb said the expansion into elder law was driven by demand for servicing long-term care and medical challenges that come with old age.
“Responding to these needs, TuckerAllen will now offer elder law and special needs planning, as well as probate and estate administration services,” Erb said in a statement.
Lewis Rice has seven offices in Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, housing about 160 lawyers. The full-service corporate and litigation firm wholly owns TuckerAllen, whose lawyers were hired from other firms when the subsidiary launched last year.
According to information released by TuckerAllen at the time of its inception, the firm sees a market opportunity for low-cost trusts and estates work across the country.
“When it comes to estate planning, the legal profession as a whole is doing a poor job of meeting the needs of the average American household,” the firm said at the time.
Most estate planning is done by small firm lawyers who handle myriad other issues, according to TuckerAllen. Those lawyers’ generalist practices make their estate planning work “spotty,” the firm said, and small firm lawyers’ technology is often “inefficient,” which drives up their costs.
With a goal of providing fixed-fee legal services to the typical American household, TuckerAllen attorneys are trained by Lewis Rice lawyers and use the latter firm’s document templates to ensure quality, the firm says. Clients access their documents via the firm’s website.
Several Am Law 100 firms have moved to shed their own trusts and estates groups in recent years, with those large firms remaining in the practice area catering their offerings to an exclusive clientele far outside what an average American household could afford in legal services.
While it’s unclear whether TuckerAllen will expand outside of St. Louis, early signs suggest that the firm is finding a receptive market in what is one of the few examples of a law firm opening a legal subsidiary.