A Mr. Richard Feder of Ft. Lee, New Jersey, writes. . .
Sorry, I’m stuck in the 70’s.
A lawyer emailed and says he has a client who is questioning his fees and wants him to reduce it. “Should I cut my fees,” he asks. He’s afraid it would open the door for her to ask again and again. Not to mention what might happen if word gets out and other clients and prospects get wind of it.
The short answer to this question is “no”. Don’t do it.
Don’t negotiate fees or cut them for an individual client. Doing so assails the integrity of your fee structure. “You will? Oh, so that means all of the other times I’ve paid $X, you were overcharging me?”
Explain that even if you were willing to lower your fee, this would be unfair to all of your other clients who pay your regular rates. It would also be unfair to you, since you would be working for less than the fair market value of your services.
If she owns a business, ask what she would do if her clients or customers asked her to cut her fees or prices. If she has a job and her employer asked her to work for less pay, would she do it?
Ask her to explain why she is asking you to cut your fee. If she says you charge more than other attorneys charge, explain to her how you are different or how you are worth more, e.g., you have more experience, you have a better track record, you get the work done faster, you offer other benefits they don’t offer, and so on.
Show her that you charge more because you are worth more.
If she says she just doesn’t want to pay it, that’s a different story and it’s easy to handle.
Let’s say she’s asking you to cut your fee from $7500 to $5500. After you explain why you cannot do this, tell her that you would be happy to provide her with $5500 worth of work if that is more in line with her budget. At her option, she can get the rest of the work done later.
Or, you might suggest different terms, where the work is done in phases, over an extended period of time.
If this is not acceptable, graciously offer to provide referrals to other attorneys you know who might help her at a fee that is in line with her needs and her budget.
Be strong. Don’t negotiate your fees. If a client leaves because of it, they weren’t worth having as a client.