law firm pricing issues

The Client Cost Conundrum: Legal Service Pricing in a Post-Recession Market – A White Paper by the ALA

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A post yesterday by Patrick Johansen, CLM, CPP, National Practice Manager at Seyfarth Shaw (on his ‘Patrick on Pricing‘ blog) alerted me to a newly published White Paper by the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) titled “The Client Cost Conundrum: Legal Service Pricing in a Post-Recession Market“.

To start with, if you are going to publish a White Paper titled “The Client Cost Conundrum: Legal Service Pricing in a Post-Recession Market“, then, in my book, you have licence to write an absolute cracker.

Add to that your intent that:

“This white paper will identify economic factors that influenced relationship changes between clients and law firms after the Great Recession; pinpoint current legal service pricing best practices; highlight pricing strategies that can attract and retain clients; and help law firms learn to address efficiency and other factors that may affect many pricing scenarios.”

and throw in quotes from some of the industry’s leading pricing consultants – including Patrick himself, Colin Jasper of Jasper Consulting, Toby Brown of Akin Gump and Timothy Corcoran of Corcoran Consulting Group, and you’ve grabbed my attention.

So what did I find?

A very disappointing read, that had me both wondering what decade I had woken up in and really questioning whether the industry could survive for much longer.

What do I mean by this?

Well, judge for yourself: here are just some of the quotes from this paper:-

  • “Sixty-eight percent of law departments say they received discounts from firms in 2015. The number of law departments that received a discount of more than 10 percent has increased 4 percent in the past two years; the amount of firms receiving a 6 to 10 percent discount grew by nearly 9 percent”

–  Discounts are not a pricing strategy, period.

  • “In an effort to strengthen client relationships, some law firms are working to better understand their clients’ needs. Approximately 29 percent of firms say they’re working to identify each client’s unique pricing preferences to support the firm’s overall pricing strategy.”

–  29% of firms are working to identify each client’s unique pricing preference. Seriously, what are the other 71% doing: throwing darts in a dart board and hoping for the best?

  • “To better comprehend what clients want, 85 percent are initiating direct conversations about pricing and budgets.”

–  “initiating direct conversation”: as opposed to what exactly, being told?

  • “Twenty-two percent of firm leaders say they thoroughly understand their top 20 clients’ business models, earnings and growth strategy”

–  I have no idea what the other 78% are thinking of, but I’m suddenly very glad I cannot invest [financially] in a law firm.

  • “29 percent of firms say their knowledge of their clients’ business and client relationships give them a key competitive advantage”

–  what is the key competitive advantage for the other 71% I wonder?

  • “Sixty-one percent of firms say overcapacity is diluting their firm’s profitability.”

–  that’s too laughable to even be laughable. I mean seriously, are the other 39% saying it’s the Friday Night Drinks that’s the issue…?

And on that note, I shall end this post with this: read the White Paper, it is really well researched and a look at the Index itself is worth the download; just don’t expect to be blown away with how progressive the industry has become towards pricing.

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5 steps to take when your client becomes your biggest competitor

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One of the more interesting take-outs from an article (‘The Rise of in-house counsel: What does this mean for law firms?‘) published on the Australasian Lawyer website today – on the rise of in-house counsel numbers in #Auslaw – is the following comment by Katherine Sampson – managing director of Mahlab Recruitment:

“It’s not necessarily that they’re [in-house] going to a competitor firm, but they are going in house…”

To me this statement rings alarm bells and reads:

“your client has just become your biggest competitor!”

So, what steps should you be taking when your client has also just become your biggest competitor for that work?

Here are 5 things you should be putting in place immediately:

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The hidden dangers of discounting your fees

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Today’s post is a short rant about the practice and dangers of discounting your legal fees, followed by a useful collection of 20 questions I found earlier that you should be asking yourself if you are discounting your fees.

I’ll start off by disclosing that I hate it when lawyers discount their fees. I especially hate it when this is done without any request by the client – a far more prevalent practice than is perhaps admitted – or consultation with others in the firm (including the practice of discounting on other lawyers’ rates in your firm without even asking them if this is OK!).

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