Flat Fee Arrangements Promote a Winning Practice

The Practice of Law - Fee AgreementsFlat fee arrangements are amazingly liberating.

Most of my fellow litigators won't take a case on a flat fee, either because they are concerned that they will grossly underestimate the time the case is going to take and end up with an effective hourly rate of $25, or simply because they think they'll make more on a straight hourly basis.

I acknolwedge that some cases just do not lend themselves to a flat fee because of the unknown factors, but when you have a case with a reasonably predictable time factor, a flat fee is a fantastic way to go, not because it earns you more (although it can), but because it allows you to do more.

This may be counterintuitive to some, and probably blaphemous to attorneys that are only in it for the money, but I'm in it to win and a flat fee gives me greater freedom to do what I need to do to win.

Say you have a case that is crying out for a demurrer. On a straight hourly arrangement, your discussion with the client goes something like this:

You:  “I really think we should bring a demurrer. The third cause of action for breach of contract fails to allege performance, and here they really can't honestly allege performance, so I think that will get rid of that cause of action.”

Client:  “So if you bring this motion the case is over?”

You:  “No, it will just get rid of that one cause of action if we prevail.”

Client:  “How much will the motion cost?”

You:  “With the motion, the reply and going to court, I can probably do it all in ten hours, so $4,500.”

Client: “So I pay you $4,500 and the motion may not work and even if it does it doesn't end the action it just gets rid of one cause of action?”

And what the client is thinking is: “Damn attorneys, he's just trying to run up the bill.”

With a flat fee, all those conversations are eliminated. If I think a demurrer is needed, I bring it. If I think more discovery is needed, I propound it.

And this isn't pure altruism. Yes, I do this to win, but being free to do everything I want to do on a case may allow me to prevail on the action much more quickly, making the flat fee a winning bet for me financially.

A few tips for flat fees: Continue reading

Five Reasons Attorneys Fall for SEO Scams

In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I provide the following anecdote:

There is a classic Peanuts comic, where Linus is going door to door trying to sell wadded up pieces of paper as cat toys. His sales presentation is good, but he never makes a sale. He asks the cat owners to picture the hours of fun their cats will have playing with the wadded up piece of paper. Nonetheless, he can’t get past the fact that he’s selling wadded up pieces of paper. He loses the sale every time, because the prospective customers realize and explain that they can wad up their own pieces of paper.

I don’t know why that comic stuck with me, but I see it played out over and over in real life, especially on the Internet. To this day, solo practitioners who can’t afford it are spending thousands of dollars to have people build websites for them. To fulfill my continuing education requirements, I was at a law firm marketing seminar recently where someone claimed that incoming links are essential to successful search engine optimization (SEO). He claimed that you should have 30,000 incoming links to your site, and as luck would have it, he just happened to offer a link-building service for the “limited time, have to buy it now or the offer is lost for ever” price of $1,950 per month. He normally required a one year commitment, but attorneys signing up on the spot only had to commit to six months. Attorneys were lined up to pay $1,950 per month — a total commitment of almost $12,000 — for incoming links to a single website! The website fiverr.com offers 50,000 incoming links for just $5, and they are just as worthless as what this person was offering.

These sorts of absurd SEO claims and pricing are far too commonplace. By accident or design, many so-called SEO experts mystify the process so that you won’t realize it’s just wadded up pieces of paper, and you can wad your own paper, thank you very much.

I came across an interesting article by Jared Jorde entitled 5 Reasons Attorneys are Easy Marks for SEO Scams on a blog called LawLytics. Jorde has apparently witnessed the same sort of nonsense I reported, and provides a detailed look at the reasons behind the phenomenon. The article is worth a read to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of the scams yourself.

In Big Fat Pipeline, I explain how to create your own websites for just $6 per month, and I use that as a point of reference when someone is offering to create websites for me. I have no objection to farming out that work, and although I have no experience with LawLytics, I’d bet their websites are fancier than my own meager efforts. You went to law school to practice law, not to create websites. So by all means allow the pros to create your sites if your budget permits, but just keep in mind that it isn't magic, and you can wad your own paper.

Law Practice Tip: Hide Your Receptionist

Law Firm Lobby
Every law firm lobby should include a string quartet.

As business people go, attorneys might be the worst offenders at doing things just because it’s what everyone else does. One example of this that recently dawned on me is the way they use their receptionists. Most park them in the lobby, and that's a terrible arrangement.

In most cases, your receptionist should not be sitting in the lobby area. A big firm might have to suffer this necessary evil, since many people will be flowing through the lobby and the receptionist must act as a traffic controller, but for smaller firms it makes no sense for a number of reasons.

1. It makes clients waiting in the lobby privy to all phone calls.

I recently attended a deposition in Los Angeles, and the four attorney firm had the usual set up with a receptionist parked in the lobby, behind one of those curved reception desks. My client and I sat in the lobby for a few minutes waiting for opposing counsel, and heard every phone call that came in. In most instances that might not be a problem, but someone called who was obviously upset about not hearing from one of the attorneys, and we heard the receptionist apologizing and offering excuses. Not very professional. Continue reading

“Freemiums” are a Great Law Firm Marketing Tool

Use Freemiums to Market your own law firm
“Freemium” is a business model that works by offering a product or service free of charge (typically digital offerings such as eBooks) while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services. The word “freemium” is a portmanteau* combining the two aspects of the business model: “free” and “premium”.  Thanks Wikipedia.

Freemiums are a great way to promote a law firm.  A potential client visits your blog and is greeted with an offer of an essential report for free.  And why would you do that? Because you must capture the client's email address in order to provide the free report.  This allows you to follow up with the potential client, and the report with all your contact information remains in the hands of the potential client so he or she can contact you when ready.

Clients shop for attorneys. Hopefully your website will be enough to generate a call, but that may not seal the deal. On many occasions a potential client has called, I've wowed them with my fount of knowledge, and sent them back to my assistant to schedule an appointment. A few minutes later, the phone rings again, and it is the same client calling to discuss the case, not realizing she is calling the same firm. She is just working her way down the Google results and calling every attorney she finds.  A freemium can distinguish you from the pack of attorneys clients are going to call. Continue reading