- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Fees/Pricing’
A common conversation I have with attorneys revolves around the almighty billable hour. Depending on how long they have been in practice and where they are in their career, they are either wondering how to monitor the hours (i.e., hire/fire others who don’t meet them) or trying to figure out how to meet their own hours.
One thing applies to all of them across the board when it comes to billable hours- they are all stressed out. Many are to the point of obsession about their billable requirements. This obsession leads to all sorts of nasty things- like paralysis, I dare say. According to my research, there is a direct inverse correlation between your self confidence and stress. The higher your stress, the lower your self-confidence and thus, the poorer your personal brand for others.
So what, you say? What does this have to do with my billable requirement?
Well, I believe that the pressure to bill X number of hours leads to higher stress and less productivity. In other words, lawyers produce worse and less. The other detriment of this is of course that lawyers are angry, anxious and perhaps at the point of desperation where they’ll compromise their integrity to bill enough….all leading to a bad public brand perception of our industry.
What if there was a peaceful, productive atmosphere and less angst around the almighty billable? I’m not disillusioned when I suggest this- I’ve been there, done that. It didn’t work then, it hasn’t worked for others since. And it is only getting worse.
If you are “in charge” and reading this consider creating a work atmosphere that is less tense and focused on the billable hour. Try something new and be daring. It can’t fail.
If you are reading this and you are identifying with my message because you “must bill”, then what about trying something new. What if you work it the other way: set your PERSONAL weekly billable goal lower and exceed it. Watch the stress go down and your productivity and happiness go up. Also, consider what’s the worst that can happen if you don’t bill “enough”? If the answer isn’t “death” then I think you know what to do.
These days it seems everyone is under more and more stress. In addition to our job/business, we get to juggle kids, spouses, pets, family, business trips, staffing issues, networking and a whole bunch of other issues that could make this list too long and too overwhelming.
If you are a lawyer, it seems your list may be longer than the rest. That there is the problem. Maybe your list is longer, maybe it is not longer. The end result is the same- not good for your personal brand or business brand. The higher your stress level, the lower your self-confidence and thus the worse your personal brand.
As a lawyer, if our stress is high and self-confidence low, then we tend to do some odd things that tend to leave us with lost referrals and lost revenues. We try to compensate for our stress and self-confidence by:
- ignoring clients
- mis-treating staff and colleagues
- behaving and communicating as if we are “too cool for school”
- complaining about our “hearings”, “trials”, “mediations”, “travel schedules”, “CLEs”
Every single lawyer client of ours has the stress issue, whether they are with a big firm or solo practitioner or in-house with one of our corporate clients. Here are just two common reasons we’ve deciphered as to why.
- Fee type: If you charge on a contingency consider this: You may feel under-payed (or maybe never paid?), so you compensate by figuring out how much you “have” to work in order to have the contingency fee pay off. Consequence: you may be mis-treating your clients because you can’t budget for them. Bigger consequence: you are stressed, bothered by client calls/emails and have a poor personal brand wherever you go. Solution: Don’t take a case if you can’t give proper support to the client because you feel undervalued. It’s not like the client begged you to take their case. You signed up for it. The alternative is possible malpractice or lost clients. Your choice. If you are in the midst of a contingency case and the client has done nothing wrong, don’t drop the ball and don’t quit. Finish the case with integrity and do your best.
- Not enough support: Your firm may not have enough lawyers on staff to be able to have everyone manage a decent workload. Or you may not have proper support at your firm to help you out with the workload. If you are a solo practitioner, you may not feel you can afford a paralegal or legal secretary. Consequence: You are spread out way too thin and can’t provide quality service. You don’t take client calls and emails. You’ve got a professional responsibility issue on top of a personal branding problem. Solution: HIRE more help! Don’t be cheap. Don’t hire a law student to do the work of a paralegal or another attorney. The consequences of running lean are far worse than paying someone to help.
If you are in the San Diego area, Katy will be speaking on a CLE panel regarding stress and dispute resolution on September 6 from Noon to 1:30pm at Mintz Levin LLP. For more info, email us.
As part of the personal branding programs we offer businesses, we often review fees for services and suggest an increase in fees. Often a fee increase is absolutely justified given the personal branding work the client has done to themselves and their businesses.
As service providers, clients often wonder how they could possibly justify an increase in their fees. They seem stunned that in “this economy” why would anyone pay us more? We’re always stunned by how little businesses value their quality work product and personal brand recognition and growth.
So how can a business possibly raise their prices? And, why would anyone want to pay you more for your services? The answer is a simple one. It’s all about how a business packages their services. And by “package” I do not mean the pretty red bow on the box or in business terms, your logo or slogan or colors.
By “package” I mean how you “own” and represent your service offerings and their worth to your prospects.
So Company “A” offers legal services to their clients. They don’t spend much time with prospects explaining their offerings and benefits in relations to the client needs, nor do they get out into the community to relate to their client base.
Company “B” offers the same legal services as Company “A”. However, Company “B” has done their personal branding work and knows that their services are in line with who they are and their talents in that particular area of the law. Their unique selling propositions as people have been built into the service offerings and the manner they are offered. Company “B” knows where to network and do community service in order to stand out as unique with their legal services and offerings. They also know how to explain these unique traits to prospects and referral partners so that they sync up with prospects and referral bases’ realities. In other words, Company “B” has an attractive package for their legal services. Therefore, Company “B” has earned the right to legitimately increase their fees- they can justify their value and bring a quality of service to their clients based on the increased fee and then some.
So which are you, Company “A” or “B”?
My husband and I went to a fast-food restaurant this past weekend. I can’t tell you how long it had been since I had eaten at a Burger King. But we were really in a hurry and had to eat fast.
My husband ordered a double-decker burger. The picture up on the wall/menu looked great- the burger looked big and had two beef patties. Since neither of us eats fast food or had eaten at Burger King, we had no idea what to expect. The burger he ordered had a much higher price-point relative to the other Burger King burgers. This price combined with the the picture, had us develop a perception in our mind of what the burger “should” be like.
When the burger came out, we thought there was a mistake. The overall size of the burger was about HALF the size of my little chicken sandwich. When my husband opened up the burger, we were both surprised. In between the two buns, there sat two of the tiniest and sorriest meat patties I had ever seen. They reminded me of the little sausage patties served at restaurants for breakfast. In fact, they were so small that the two buns dwarfed them.
The size of the patties were so small, it was almost insulting. It would not have been bad if Burger King had not set up the “double -decker” experience the way they did. If the picture had been of a smaller burger and the price point had matched, then there would have been no problem: our perception and expectations would have matched and we would have gotten what we paid for. We know we will likely never go back to Burger King again- they didn’t deliver on their promise.
So stop and ask yourself: Do y0u deliver on what you promise your customer/clients/patients in order to keep your personal brand loyalty? If you can’t deliver, then don’t promise the stars. But if you promise the stars, then you better deliver or else we can’t trust your product anymore.
I love to shop at Trader Joe’s. I find it makes me happy to just think about going to that store. And yes, I do spend money and deal with the parking headaches in their lots. But I still go happily. Not only that, every time the name, “Trader Joe’s” comes up, I feel happy.
In personal brand management, we teach that everything is about the emotional quotient- what feeling do you drum up in us about who you are so that we remember you and want to be around you, buy from you, etc? Trader Joe’s clearly has that emotional quotient value mastered.
We can all agree that their quality may not be the absolute best and their prices are low, but not the lowest. We’ve all noticed how the packaging tends to shrink (one less egg-roll, a few ounces less jam), but I still go back and so do all the people we have surveyed. The reason is that Trader Joe’s still gives us that happy feeling-and that is priceless.
In addition, the customer service in their stores is excellent. Every employee works with passion and purpose and acts like they own the company! I love it. I’ve heard they receive excellent benefits- even if they are part-time workers. So clearly, Trader Joe’s has figured out the customer service personal branding secret, too- hire well, take care of your employees and the rest is history.
So stop and ask yourself- do you make your clients and prospects and friends and family happy? When we think of you, do we forget the not-so-perfect stuff and remember you for the happiness you elicit in us? Do you train your staff to provide that same level of happy customer service? Hope so. Visit a Trader Joe’s store and see how it works.