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Solo & Small Law Firms

What About Marketing Alternative Rates?

For some time, I’m sure, some law firms large and small, have offered alternatives to the billable hour and probably more have started to do so or at least consider it since Matt Homann started blogging.  But what’s different about the alternative billing approach just announced by  McGuire Woods (reported in Hourly Legal Fees Under Attack – Chicago Tribune 4/18/05) is that the firm plans to actively market fee flexibility:

In an advertising campaign to begin Monday, McGuireWoods LLP will market its ability to tailor fees for its legal services that go beyond the traditional hourly rate. The ads, to appear in Crain’s Chicago Business, the Midwest edition of Fortune magazine and other local publications, is expected to create a stir in the Chicago legal community because the Richmond, Va.-based firm is taking shots at the competition.

In one ad, a pudgy, balding, middle-aged man in a business suit leans back in a chair and blows bubbles into the air. The caption reads, “Law firms that charge strictly by the hour are about to have their bubbles burst.”

The reason that this concept interests me so much is that conventional wisdom suggests that solos shouldn’t try to compete with large firms on price, but rather, should sell experience, personal service and expertise.   (Personally, and perhaps to my detriment, I’ve never fully adopted that approach in my own firm marketing; as my firm website shows, I do sell my firm’s lower cost and my commitment to stick to my fee estimates) Yet here, a large firm is now doing just that:  using price as a way to distinguish itself.  I’m curious to see whether this kind of strategy will reduce the cost of large firm services.  But as a solo, I’m still not worried, because even with flexible pricing, bigfirms still carry way too much overhead to depress fees so that they can compete with me.

What role does pricing play in your marketing strategy?  Send me your comments below.