Daily Dispatch

Clients Want Value

Abandon the Hourly Chains and Pitch Clients on Your “Why”

By | Dec.04.12 | Billing, Client Service, Daily Dispatch, Fees, Money

Lawyers have been talking about and wrestling with “alternative billing methods” or “alternative fee agreements” for a decade or more. Recently, however, the conversation has shifted to “value billing.” Well, that’s a concept we can get behind. Once we understand what we all mean by value, of course. Enter Antigone Peyton. She’s laying it all out in our series on “Value 101.”

When it comes to legal services, value is an elusive quality that is hard to define. Many attorneys believe their services are extremely valuable and demand a high hourly rate that covers any and all time they spend on a particular client project. But have they considered the client’s perception of what value those services have to the client’s business? Not likely.

Here’s how you might approach this issue. Shake off those chains and start talking with clients about why your firm exists.

Stop Talking to the Rational Brain

Many firms pitch work to new or existing clients using this weary approach:

  • We have many pedigreed attorneys.
  • We have big clients.
  • Our people have been doing this for over 10 years.
  • We have nice offices in a convenient downtown location so everyone can see how successful we are.

Their current clients pay these firms some unknown amount of money for their work, and the clients learn what it will be when they get each bill. Don’t you want to work with them, too?

This is all so old-hat—and it’s really boring. If you go into a meeting with this pitch, then you are just like every other boring law firm.

Now, what if you took a page from Simon Simek and shared your WHY with clients? Why do you do what you do? Clients work with you because of your why, not because of what you do.

What if everything your firm does challenges the status quo and your firm believes in becoming part of the client team?

What if you do this by giving clients (1) fixed fees for certain predictable projects and (2) access to their documents, team members and real-time budget information through a web-based client portal?

Oh, and you also happen to practice employment law….

This Is the Lizard Brain Responding

Those who start with why understand that people work with lawyers who believe what they believe, lawyers who don’t personify all the negative stereotypes our profession is saddled with. The first step to showcasing those shared values and beliefs is sharing why your firm exists and what its mission is—this is the essence of your firm’s why.

Now go out and find it.

After working in Big Law for many years, Antigone Peyton discovered her inner entrepreneur and founded Cloudigy Law, an intellectual property and technology law firm in “the cloud.” Now she muses about positive disruption in the legal services marketplace. Antigone’s an unabashed technophile and blogs about IP, elawyering, emerging tech and e-discovery issues on the Decoding IP blog. Before law, she worked as a scientist, conducting clinical and pre-clinical studies at a large medical institution. Antigone tweets at @antigonepeyton.

More from Antigone Peyton on Value 101:

Illustration ©ImageZoo.

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2 Responses to “Abandon the Hourly Chains and Pitch Clients on Your “Why””

  1. Ian Altman
    5 December 2012 at 7:20 am #

    Antigone,

    Great points. I wrote a 3-part series recently in the Washington Business Journal (also on my site) about hourly vs. project-based billing. Many firms grapple with the notion of fixed-fee billing, and the most common push-back I hear is “things can happen that would dramatically increase the scope of the project.” There are ways to account for those variables – most of it comes down to expectation management and communication.

    The path that most firms have taken to get to their current success is not the same path that will drive their future prosperity. They need to think differently and flip things upside down. Early adopters will thrive, while those who wait will suffer.


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