Billing and fee structures are topics that frequently don’t appear at all on law firm websites. This is a mistake, because though you hope clients focus on your expertise and ability rather than costs, the fact is that clients care deeply about fees and financial arrangements.
Alternatives to the billable hour aren’t new, by any means. Businesses have wanted a different approach for years, and flocked gratefully to law firms that provided more budgeting-friendly options. In the 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market, Thomson Reuters refers to the “demise of the traditional billable hour pricing model as clients have increasingly insisted on other approaches to the pricing of legal services.”
The same report describes today’s legal environment as one “in which clients demand greater value for the dollars they spend for legal services and in which value is measured by efficiency, predictability, and cost-effectiveness in the delivery of services.”
That’s strong stuff, and it’s not overstating the case. Legal consumers demand value for their fees, and they strongly prefer a billing model that allows them to clearly see the value they are getting as well as one that allows them to plan for legal costs ahead of time, rather than being subject to unexpected bills that wreak havoc on budgets already established without the benefit of foreknowledge.
Despite the fact that many firms do offer alternative fee structures today, budget or value billing remains a strong differentiator for those firms that provide it. That’s due in part to a perception that fewer firms offer these alternatives than actually do and in part to the importance clients place on having such an option available.
Based on both of these factors, the billing and fee structure your law firm utilizes has become an important feature to highlight in your messaging. Yes, there are elements of your marketing strategy where financial matters need not appear, but for websites, overview brochures and some other materials, this issue carries enough weight that it deserves to be presented prominently as a benefit to clients and even highlighted.
Whether you stick to the traditional billable hour, rely exclusively on alternative billing structures or offer some combination in structuring fees, potential clients demand and deserve to know. The nature of the financial relationship they will have is a significant contributor as they select a legal provider, and giving them this information facilitates their willingness and ability to further explore your firm as a viable choice.
Don’t dismiss fee structure as a topic that’s unseemly or irrelevant, because you can be certain the question is high in the minds of those who are considering your firm. Put the information out there where it’s easy to find, along with the reasoning that underlies your approach as one that delivers the best value for clients. They’ll appreciate your transparency in any case, and be more likely to reach out if the model is one that works for their needs.