At first blush, this letter to the editor criticizing the Duxbury school board for considering the possibility of replacing its current law firm with a one-person “cut rate” shop seems discouraging for most solos who compete with the big boys. Among other things, the writer expresses concern about the solo’s cut rates, noting that “you get what you pay for,” questions what will happen if the solo is “sick or on vacation” and adds that the solo does not even have malpractice insurance. The writer also notes that the current firm had a winning record.
While some lawyers, after seeing this letter, might simply give up on trying to attract clients like the school board or rant about the unfairness of the system, the more productive response is to use the letter to understand client bias against solos and figure out how to address it. For example:
–Where as here, an existing firm already provides good value, competing on price won’t work – and indeed, looks desperate. That’s not to say that the solo should intentionally increase his or her rates, but instead might offer an alternative billing structure or some type of “preventive” package to give the board more certainty and avoid litigation and associated cost spikes.
–In any proposed retainer or office policy, the solo should describe his or her system for coverage in the event of an emergency. This might include a specifically designated back-up law firm or contract associates. Honestly, clients don’t really care so much who will step in if there’s an absence or emergency, just that someone will.
–Get malpractice insurance. This case offers good reason to do so.
If you have any other suggestions, please post them below.