If you’ve ever discounted your fees, either voluntarily to lure a client to your firm or involuntarily because your client ran out of cash, you’re in strong company. As I posted over at Legal Blogwatch, 76 percent of law firms discount their fees. But what’s even more interesting is that 89 percent of the discounters practice in firms of ten lawyers or more, while only 59 percent of the smaller firms cut their fees. However, the study that I cited as summarized by Greatest American Lawyer (the study is not free) does not explain when or why firms offered these discounts.
So what does this mean for solo and small firm lawyers? First, if you compete with the big boys, don’t assume that your $400 an hour rate is necessarily a bargain compared to biglaw – since the partners may be chopping their billing rates. You may still be cheaper, but not as much as you think. So when you make your pitch, don’t rely on cost alone (which still matters, at least based on my own review) but also the added value that you can bring with better client service. Second, if you find yourself involuntarily cutting fees after the fact, ask yourself why. Did you under budget and leave your client unprepared to pay a higher fee? You might want to consider flat fees, where the client knows the firm cost up front and can budget for it.