Produced in partnership with Robert Mowbray of Taylor Mowbray LLP
As we know, times are changing. Clients are more demanding. They’re better informed. And they’re very price-sensitive.
Virtually every partner you talk to will tell you stories of how their long-standing clients suddenly started to say ‘we need to discuss fees’ or ‘could you be more innovative or creative with your fee proposals?’
Unfortunately, solicitors are not used to this pressure and tend to offer large discounts too quickly.
What are alternatives to lawyers charging by the hour? Surely there is a satisfactory middle ground where both the client and the solicitor can be happy?
Implement creative fee arrangements – avoid giving greater discounts
A creative fee is one that is better for the client and also better for the solicitor – it’s certainly not a bigger discount. If the arrangement is one-sided, the discount is probably not sustainable in the long term.
There has been considerable commentary in the legal press that clients do not like time-based fees as they can encourage inefficiency. While this is definitely true there are still certain types of matter where a client might choose a time-based fee as being appropriate and the fairest arrangement to both parties where it is uncertain how much work will be required.
So what are the genuinely creative fee arrangements that you could consider? Here are a few suggestions:
Ultimately, the client and the solicitor need to agree on the fee arrangement but the above are creative arrangements that benefit both parties. Rather than wait for the client to say they want to discuss fees, it might be better if you started the conversation and offered some better fee arrangements than are being used at the moment.
Most fee earners are uncomfortable talking about fees, never mind negotiating fee reductions. You can find more information on how to negotiate fees in the PSL Practice Management module. You can also access our precedent: Negotiating fees—fee earner/partner questionnaire to assess where fee earners (and partners) comfort levels lie and deliver training as required.