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September 2005

Working within client budgets

I’ve been thinking about client budgets a lot of late. Since I do a lot of litigation, client budgets are always at the forefront. However, some clients quickly forget how expensive litigation can be even when done efficiently and with cost containment in place. Too often, clients forget initial discussions concerning the expense of trial once they get moths into a case and have been paying fees on a regular basis. I’ve decided to develop a presentation for my client which discusses in general the high cost of litigation, the alternatives to litigation and budget issues. By having them sign off on the presentation hopefully they will keep in mind as the case progresses that justice comes at a price.


Three Big Things per Day

        I read recently in the blogesphere that we should focus on getting three significant things done per day. The point seemed to be that we often times start our day by looking at so many things that need to be done that we are paralyzed from achieving many of them. I agree that three big things is an ambitious goal per day however, I would add something of critical importance. There are anywhere between fifteen and forty little things that also need to be accomplished every single day these little things may include task generation, task delegation, reinforcing themes within your staff, short client phone calls, short return emails to clients, taking out the trash, cleaning up your office, going through your daily mail, and a host of other little ten to fifteen minute items which must be accomplished. I believe that it is these little things that make all the difference in whether your day is a success or a failure, as to whether you ended up further ahead or further behind by days end.


Client Screening Criteria

       Most firms simply evaluate a potential client purely by their ability to pay. In a contingency setting, clients are screened by the merits of their action and the possibility of success for the client, which of course means success for the attorney. Contemporaneous  pay (ie hourly, flat fee etc) clients need to be screened in the identical ways that the contingency fee lawyer screens their clients. By making sure that a client can actually obtain a successful result within their available budget, we give ourselves at least a chance of having a perfect client experience.


Look for Clues in the Initial Client Contact

        In working with this prospect this morning I tried to focus on issues surrounding careful client selection. I noted clues in the prospects very first email inquiry. It was six paragraphs long. It made sense. It provided relevant content. It raised the appropriate issues. I gleaned from this first email that the client was motivated and willing to do work on his own behalf. When I traded a couple more emails with him, I learned they were meeting today to attempt to quantify their economic damages. The client demonstrated an appreciation for the importance of that key point, one which is often completely overlooked by clients during the initial retention phase.

            On the concern side of the equation, I noticed tremendous passion in his writing. This made me at least concerned about whether or not this would be a client who was out for blood as opposed to making good business decisions. We will see on that score.


Free Legal Services are Valuable to Attorneys too.

I was working with a new prospect this Sunday morning by trading emails, I realized the value of providing free legal services. Thus far, I have spent about an hour trading emails, getting information, giving advice and roughly defining possible projects. This is essentially free legal advice which is providing significant value to the prospect. But it is also a time when I can get a feel for what the client’s expectations and budget might be. There is a grey area between attaining information, and roughing up a project and that point where the client starts to pay for that service. Of course, in the midst of all of this the attorney is trying to sell his services to the client. The point where you actually ask for a payment on a fee from the client is critical in the sales process.

I feel good about providing a little bit of help on the front end to a lot of people who contact me by email or phone after seeing my website. But, I realized that I can only provide a certain percentage of pro bono services. It doesn’t do me or my clients any good to spend four hours a day just helping people out for free.

It occurred to me this morning that I actually receive value out of providing whatever level of upfront pro bono time that seems appropriate under any given circumstances. The more time I put in, the better I can determine whether this is someone I actually want to do business with. I can have no hope of getting the perfect client if I don’t put quality time on the front end to determine whether or not they have the attributes I am looking for in clients. See the perfect client posts previously. If it appears that it is the type of client that I don’t mind doing at least some initial work for, I can them enter the dating period as I scale up the amount of support I would make available to them.

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Does Anyone Know How to Move From the Typepad Servers to their Own Server?

           I want to move my main website from the typepad hosting to my own server. Does anyone know how difficult this is? Does anyone know who does it on a fee basis? What happens to the old site that is hosted by typepad? Do you leave it up? If you redirect, what happens to all the old links?

            Anyone with any insights on this issue can email me.

Or you can post a comment here for everyone’s convenience.