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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One law firm trying a new way of billing clients - will it work?

There's an interesting article in the Globe and Mail that talks about how tough it is for law firms and accounting firms to innovate in terms of how they deliver their services and how they bill for them. Click here to see the article. I found it interesting because I've worked in traditional law firms for my whole career and have seen for myself the disconnect between how lawyers bill and how clients want them to bill. Generally speaking, I think the billable hour concept works a lot better for the lawyers than it does for the clients.

When I set up my current firm, I deliberately set up a menu of services and prices that has nothing to do with the billable hour. I charge a set price for wills, for consultations, for mediation sessions, etc. I encourage clients with questions who don't necessarily want to start a lawsuit to book a one-time session to talk over their situation with me. They still gain solicitor-client privilege. They still have access to an experienced lawyer. But they aren't obligated to start a lawsuit, or to hire me to do anything else if they don't want to.

I also make the distinction between legal advice and legal information. I have books, kits, and information packages that people can buy to get legal information. The difference is that legal information is not tailored by a lawyer to a specific set of facts, but is general information that applies to everyone. This works for people who already have a lawyer but need more background information and context, or who don't want to work with a lawyer.

I set it up this way because I've heard from so many people in my work, on this blog, in seminars, and pretty much everywhere I go that clients feel that lawyers bill too much, and too mysteriously. I'm trying out my new system of set prices for set jobs. The people who attended our Open House and who call us to chat have said that they want to try this new arrangement because they feel it is client-oriented and transparent.

I admit that my little firm is brand new and only time will tell whether it will work. If it does, I hope that other lawyers will follow suit. I'd love to hear some comments from readers about whether you think this is a system that will work better for clients than the usual method of billing.

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