Do not ever discount your legal fees. Ever.
This is more of a practice management post:
Never discount your legal fees. Ever. I don’t care who the client is.
People have told me this for years and for years I would nod and for years I would discount fees, and it is a horrific, horrific mistake (that I’ve made previously).
Why do most people do it?
- The promise of future business.
- Potential client says “If we do this one at ‘x’, I will have no problem paying ‘y’ on the next.
- Potential client says “I will refer all of my friends to you”
- Potential client says “I can pay you ‘x’ now, and while that’s lower than what you typically get, I will pay you ‘y’ soon and more and more thereafter”
The above is complete bullshit and you should not listen to it. It’s about value. Do you value your time? Do you do good work? If the previous questions are met with a resounding “yes” in your head, then there should be no discussion. If you charged more, but you did excellent work, do you really think the potential client wouldn’t hire/pay you the next time around? They would. If you do a wonderful job for them, and get them out of a situation, do you really think they wouldn’t refer you? They would. It’s common sense.
Here is the difference-the person that’s haggling with you initially, and essentially negotiating the value of your time will NEVER VALUE YOUR TIME. He/she is ALREADY saying “I don’t think you are worth what you think you are worth.” Upfront. They’re saying this. So, how could they possibly value your time at a later point, and value it MORE when they know that you agreed that your time wasn’t valued the way you thought it was initially.
If I was haggling over a widget and the price was $20, but I got them down to $10, do you really think I’m going to pay $20 for the next widget? Does it matter if it’s the best thing in the world? No. Why? Because I already got you to believe the price of your widget was worth less than what you thought it was. It would be illogical for me to go back to a higher price. And why would I refer friends to you at your market rate, when I got you for less? And why wouldn’t I tell my friends that I was able to get you to discount your fee? And why wouldn’t they demand the same discount? The answer is, they would. And then what do you say ?”Well, your friend promised I could charge you more because I charged him less”?
In 8 years of practice, I have never discounted someone’s fees where it’s been paid back to me in spades. It’s never once been beneficial to my business. If the person comes back, they’re going to want the same deal. And now they’re going to say “well, look, I keep coming back. I want to continue this relationship.” Then you’re stuck in the same position. You’re having the same argument about what you’re worth.
What’s worse, you’ll get a client who does not value your time the way you value it, and who sucks that time up because of the decrease in the time’s worth( to them). In other words-they’re going to take up more of your time because you and they do not agree on what your time is worth. They think it’s worth less than what you think, so they won’t feel bad about taking up twice as much of it. It’s not worth it. You’ll also be in danger of screwing up the relationships you have with clients who actually value your time (and pay for it) the same way you do.
2. “I need to pay the rent” “It’s been a slow month” “Alimony due”, etc…
- Legitimate. I’ve been there. Everyone has. You need to take on cases you don’t want because you have to pay the bills. Fine. But then look at your overhead. Look at your finances. This is a massive, massive wake up call for you. Why are your finances in this state. Do you need to take on another area of practice? A partner? Do you need a smaller office. Because the choices are either cutting overhead (for instance, that advertisement you’re running but have never been able to tell if you’re getting any business from) or taking on clients that are going to thereby increase your therapist’s retirement fund.
3. “Other lawyers charge less”
- Good for them. Let them charge less. Let them get these clients. You really want clients who tell you this? Do you think a sales rep at the BMW dealership gets a ton of “Well, I can get a Ford Fusion for $19,000.” No. They don’t. Charge what you are worth and what YOUR market dictates, and not what the lowest common denominator is. We do Bankruptcy and Real Estate. There are lawyers that charge $750 for each. We charge much more. I have no doubt that they get a much larger amount of inquiries and clients than we do. Good for them. I mean that. I don’t want people who think that the entire process of buying/selling a home or filing for Bankruptcy in New York should cost $750. To me, it doesn’t. To me, the amount of time it takes to complete either properly costs much more. Thankfully, I’ve been able to find clients who agree with that. Not to say the others are “wrong” in any way, but we’re never going to get a long if they think what I’m doing isn’t worth it to them at that price. So they should go somewhere where the other party believes in the same value of the time as they do.
There’s more to this, but I hope this will serve as a good primer. I’m not going to even get into the 80/20 principle, which has done great things for my business. Heed these words of caution. I did not and have paid the price.