Do attorneys charge too much?


A lot of people think attorneys charge too much. But you can’t charge too much. It’s not possible. If someone is willing to pay what you ask, then, by definition, it’s not too much.

Unless, somehow, an attorney has some kind of monopoly–government hook up, union contract, that sort of thing, or someone else is paying the bill–in a free market, the market determines price.

Willing buyer, willing seller, and all that.

Actually, many attorneys fees are too low. They don’t charge what they could. Why? Several reasons:

  • They try to match their rates to what other lawyers are charging, so they can “stay competitive,” and everyone gets locked into thinking that what everyone is charging is the “right price”.
  • They believe they will get more clients by offering rates somewhat lower than other attorneys.
  • They haven’t factored in the costs of overhead or inflation.
  • They start out low and are afraid that if they raise their rates they’ll lose clients.
  • They lack confidence in themselves and their abilities or think they don’t have enough experience to charge top dollar.

How do you know if you could charge more? You raise your fees and see what happens. Start with new clients. If there’s little or no resistance, roll out the increase with existing and former clients. Keep raising fees until there is “significant” resistance. I can’t tell you what that is, but you will know it when you see it.

Here’s the thing: the best clients don’t shop around for the lowest priced attorney, and you don’t want the ones who do. You should never compete on price. You’ll attract the worst clients, and besides, there will always be someone who charges less.

The best clients — the ones who return again and again and refer others — understand that you get what you pay for. In fact, if you charge less than most other attorneys, you’ll actually make them nervous. What would you think if you found out that the doctor who was about to operate on your brain charged much less than other surgeons?

You don’t want a reputation for being “low priced”. Instead, you want clients to think of you as “charging top dollar but worth every penny.” In this way, you get the better clients and maximize your revenues and profits.

Regularly survey the market and keep your fees at least in the upper one third of fees in your area. You don’t have to be the most expensive in town to get the best clients (although that may be an effective strategy for some lawyers), but you do want to be among that group.

Will you lose some clients as you raise your rates? Yes, but far fewer than you might imagine. And the revenue you lose by their loss will be more than made up for by the gains from other, higher-paying clients.

In fact, you may find that by raising your rates you actually find there is more demand for your services. More clients at higher rates? That would be okay, wouldn’t it?

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