Just before Christmas, PD law CEO Mel Cox took a call from a prospective home buyer client wanting a price for a conveyance. With expected apprehension of any buyer of legal services, our soon to be client asked the obligatory barrage of questions, making sure she knew we knew what we were talking about. Yet, she still had some nagging doubts about engaging us to look after her transaction. To Mel, it felt like the client was hesitating to ask a burning question…..
Then it happened…
‘So, what about if I have to ask more questions or call in? What else do I have to pay? What if I need any more help, basically?’
Mel’s response was simple – ‘That’s all you pay. Our fees are fixed. Call us, drop in, email us, use the portal whenever you want and as much as you want. Our fees don’t change based on how much you talk to us.’
The client sounded surprised – clearly she thought that lawyers billed for every 6 minutes, every phone call and every photocopy. That might have been true in the past! So the client engaged us, and her matter progressed on time, and as quoted.
No-one wants uncertainty. If you take your car to the mechanic to be serviced, or repaired, you need to know what it’ll cost. If you need surgery, you need to know what it’ll cost. So why, on earth, engage a lawyer without knowing the cost?
Word of warning – many lawyers are dead against it. Typically the discussion ends up with the tired old line – ‘Well, how long is a piece of string?’, palms upturned, wry grin. Difficult conversation averted.
We think the days of hourly rates are all but over, and for very good reason. Here are some of the benefits associated with fixed fee pricing legal services:
Keeping in touch
After engaging a lawyer, clients can be so concerned about the potential cost, they try to limit their communication for fear of a massive legal bill. They’re concerned that, every time they make contact, they’ll get charged.
As much as I can see their point (if I was getting charged by the minute I wouldn’t call me either), it’s so counterproductive. Everyone loses – the lawyer is in the dark, the client is anxious and irritated, and the job is a mess.
On the other hand, if you knew up front how much it was going to cost to get from point A to point B, and then from point B to point C, it follows that your working relationship with your lawyer would be far more effective and valuable.
Value pricing not crunching out the hours
Knowing exactly what it’ll cost, means you can ascribe some subjective value to the service your lawyer offers, rather than feeling like you’re not in control, and out of your depth. Instead of focussing on how long it will take to complete a project, and panicking about time and fees, you can make an informed decision on cost and focus on working together and chasing down your objective.
Precision on scope of work
With fixed fee work, you get the peace of mind of knowing just what is included and what is not included. It’s then your choice to decide whether to increase or decrease the scope of work to suit your needs.
Detailed upfront analysis
With fixed fee pricing it’s crucial that lawyers know what it is they have to do, how long it will take, what sort of value they are adding, and what your outcomes and objectives are. This can only be done by a comprehensive up front analysis, and the law firm’s collective experience. This in turn often draws out issues which might otherwise not be considered until after a matter has begun. We’ve found another benefit with this collaborative approach is that all key personnel in our firm are involved in the analysis – we draw on everyone’s experience to ascertain what we need to do to get the job done and add value.
Fixed fee legal services promote efficiency. The client is happy to keep in touch as needed, and there’s no incentive for the law firm to keep racking up hours. There’s no benefit in unnecessarily dragging a matter out, but rather much to be gained in efficient practices.
What happens at PD Law
At PD Law we:
- meet with you, listen, gain an understanding of what you might need, and what your objectives are, listen some more;
- confirm we have it clear what your objectives are;
- give you an obligation free fee proposal, telling you our scope of work, what’s included, what’s not included;
- believe that you want our experience, expertise and our intellectual capital, not hourly rates.
But sometimes the goal posts change…
And sometimes additional work that was outside the scope of the original fee quote is required. For example, negotiating changes to the contract can be required. But you’ll be the first to know. We will always provide you our best estimate of what the additional work may cost, and we won’t do any additional work without your approval. It’s not always possible to foresee the future, but you’ll at least be able to make an informed financial decision before incurring any additional costs.
So, even though buying legal services is often seen as a grudge purchase, it doesn’t have to be. If you need a lawyer, make sure you know what you’re getting, make sure your opportunity to communicate is unlimited, and make sure you ascertain the value that your lawyer is adding, based on their expertise, experience, and fee structure. You’ll soon know whether it is worth it. At PD Law we do this, and you shouldn’t settle for less.