Lawyers and law firms are not exempt from the economic downturn. When the economy is chugging along, companies regularly look to enhance their business model. Clients have no problem hiring attorneys to do things which are important, but not critical. While a trademark registration with the USPTO is important, the cost of a lawyer opinion letter on availability, legal fees for trademark registration and a filing fee to the USPTO can run about $1,600. It is a discretionary spend. Unless you get sued as a defendant in litigation, you typically have a choice as to whether or not to spend money on legal services.
In order to overcome the economic disincentives to spending money on important legal items, which are not otherwise critical or mandatory, lawyers need to continue to differentiate their legal service offerings. There are lots of ways to do this. Innovative billing techniques, payment schedules, improved customer or client service, transparency or perhaps the most important item, is to make sure that you do not charge the client to learn about their problems. Lawyers who charge for miscellaneous phone calls to or from their client are creating a huge disincentive for that client to contact the attorney.