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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I was nickeled and dimed...

This is a mostly serious post but admittedly part rant...

The issue: getting nickled & dimed to death as a customer and it's application to the practice of law.

My personal experience was a hotel in downtown Chicago where my wife and I stayed this past weekend. Not the most deluxe quality but probably one step below the most deluxe...so quite nice. And yet for the $200-something you're paying to stay there, there's an extra fee to use the health club and swimming pool. Also, the same at the hotel's restaurant...everything's a la carte. I suppose we all have our "issues" that peeve us but really. I'll go to the Motel 6 next time...they don't charge me to go swimming.

What's the right amount of nickel and diming in our legal billing? I'm sort of thinking out loud here...I've been at a place that charged for everything from the stamps to single copies. I don't like that. However, I almost think I've swung too far to the other side and don't charge enough for certified mail or major copy jobs. What's the correct balance?

Obviously all court costs are client costs. Something like any costs over $1.00 are the client's responsibility? Is this too minor to care about? I'm just anal about some things and want them perfect.


At 10:33 PM, Blogger RJon@HowToMakeItRain.com said...

In response to your question, I'll share the story of how I negotiated with the current property management company for my condo association on whose Board I reluctantly serve.

We were approached by a new management company offering to match the service of the former company but at a lower price. Former company was charging $30 per unit per month. New company offered to do the same job for $28 per unit.

I countered with $32 per unit but don't waste my valuable time making me count postage stamps and other incidentals.

Now let's just think about how this works out financially and in terms of value/client service/opportunity costs:

We have 27 units but only three board members & I'm the most active of the three. So I gave the new management company an extra $4 per unit over & above what they were asking for (more than a 10% annual increase on one of the smaller budget line items) if they would save me the time of playing bookkeeper.

So every other owner in the building "has to pay" an extra $4/month but for only $8 (our apartment is two units) I get to save more than an hour each month, and I make no apologies at the condo meetings about how much I value my time.

POINT BEING. . . there are not one but two "opportunity costs" associated with recouping every penny spent to service a client, yours to track every copy and postage stamp, and the clients' who probably have better things they'd rather be doing with their time.

And here's a tip for all the solos out there trying to compete with big firms and title companies: Don't miss the chance to point out to prospects and even current and soon-to-be former clients at the closing table why your fees are $251 per hour. If they're anything like my clients, they'll appreciate your for valuing their time.


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