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?

The Attorney Marketing Formula: How to Earn More Than You Ever Thought Possible. Click here.


Another lesson from Apple: how to get clients to pay higher legal fees


Yesterday, I wrote about Apple’s pricing strategy with the new iPad Mini. Instead of competing with other tablets for the low end of the tablet market, they’re letting other companies duke it out while they target the more profitable high end. The same is true for their entire product line.

Apple fans are willing to pay more for Apple products (and stand in line to get them) because they believe it’s worth it. They believe they get more value for their dollar.

Style is certainly one aspect. So is functionality. But more than anything, I think what appeals to Apple users is ease of use.

Apple’s slogan, “It just works,” is arguably responsible for converting legions of PC users, frustrated with complicated, buggy, and virus prone machines to the Apple brand. True or not, the impression Apple’s marketing team has created is that with Apple products you won’t have continual crashes or blue screens, and you won’t have to take a class to learn how to use it. You just turn it on and it works.

And that’s exactly what Apple’s customers want.

Well guess what? That’s what your clients want, too. At least the clients you should be targeting. They want to know that when they hire you, you’ll get the job done.

They don’t want complications. They don’t want to know the boring details. They want the peace of mind of knowing that when they hire you, they’ll be in good hands. If you can give this to them, they’ll pay you more than what other attorneys charge.

Now I know many attorneys will cynically argue that their clients are very price conscious and won’t pay a penny more if another attorney will do it for less. And that’s true–THEIR clients are price conscious and won’t pay a penny more. But that’s not true of all clients.

Didn’t the PC world say the same thing about Apple when their prices first became known? “Why would anyone pay double for something just because it’s nicer looking?”

The answer was, and still is, because “it just works.”

You can follow in Apple’s footsteps. Target the higher end of the market for your services. Show them that when they hire you, everything is taken care of for them. They won’t have to worry about getting a bill filled with surprises, or an attorney who doesn’t explain things or return their phone calls. Show them that “you just work” and they’ll pay you more. Because it’s worth it to them.

Learn how to earn more than you ever thought possible. Get The Attorney Marketing Formula.


What Apple’s new iPad Mini can teach lawyers about pricing legal services


So everyone is buzzing about Apple’s new iPad Mini. Comments abound about the features, or lack thereof, but the number one topic of discussion is price.

Many predicted (hoped?) Apple would price the Mini in line with what Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google are pricing their tablets, in the neighborhood of $199-$249. They said that in so doing, Apple would crush the competition and own the small tablet market. Instead, the lowest priced Mini is offered at $329.

Many observers are questioning Apple’s strategy. How can they compete with tablets priced so much lower?

The answer is they’re not even trying.

Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis, told The Verge, “I think what Apple has done here is create a new category of premium small tablet.” The writer Greengart spoke to summed up Apple’s strategy thusly: “[I]t appears Apple is simply opting out of the low end of the market altogether, much like it’s done with personal computers.”

Greengart continues: “I don’t think this puts Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Google out of business, but it means that those three — and anyone else entering that market segment — are all competing against each other for the budget consumer.” [emphasis added]

Apple is letting everyone else compete for the low end of the market while it offers a premium product to the smaller but more profitable segment of the market that is willing to pay a premium price.

This is exactly what lawyers should do.

Most lawyers offer the same services at the same prices to the same prospects. Everyone looks the same and says the same things. Nobody stands out. Everyone is average. And so the average lawyer gets average results from their marketing and earns only average income.

The better strategy is to offer higher quality services to those who are willing to pay for them.

Marketing is easier because you have something better to offer. Marketing is less expensive because you’re not trying to deliver your message to everyone. Other lawyers can’t compete with you because they don’t offer what you offer. And your income is higher because your clients are paying more.

You may not have Apple’s resources or “sex appeal” but you can follow the same strategy they do. Let other lawyers fight over the masses while you offer a better “product” to a smaller, more profitable segment of the market.

Most lawyers will never do this. They won’t offer premium services and, frankly, don’t even know what that means. That makes it so much easier for you.

How does Apple compete with Google? It doesn’t. How do you compete with other attorneys? You don’t.

The Attorney Marketing Formula shows you how to offer premium services and get premium fees.


Seth Godin is a stupidhead


Okay, not really. He’s actually quite brilliant, as his best-selling books and large blog following attest. And I agree with him most of the time. But about a week ago, he said:

The easiest customers to get are almost never the best ones.

If you’re considering word of mouth, stability and lifetime value, it’s almost always true that the easier it is to get someone’s attention, the less it’s worth.

Let’s think about this, shall we. . .


  • Make you sell them on why they need legal services and why they should hire you instead of any other attorney
  • Shop around, interview you, take forever to decide
  • Are skeptical and question everything; trust is paper thin
  • Bargain over fees (and question your bills)


  • Are ready to sign up, pay your retainer, and follow your advice

I’ll take the easy clients, thank you.

Easy to get clients usually come through referrals. They trust the party who refers them, who trusts you and can attest to your trustworthiness and value. Easy to get clients might also be frequent readers of your blog or newsletter. They may have heard you speak or met you through networking. They might be friends or followers on social media.

Easy to get clients are easy to get because they know, like, and trust you. When they need (and want) your services, they’re pretty much ready to go.

It’s true that hard to get clients can turn out to be some of your most loyal clients and ardent fans. They have examined you with a fine tooth comb and found you worthy. Having passed inspection, you get their business and their referrals. But this doesn’t necessarily make them better clients or worth more to you than their easy going counterparts.

And then there are those who are neither hard to get nor easy to get. They are the folks who saw your ad or found you through search. They require a bit more effort before they will hire you but that hardly makes them “hard to get” or less valuable as clients.

I think Seth may be referring to those big clients who have lots of firms competing for their business. These clients know they are valuable and take advantage of that. They demand, and get, the lowest fees and the most concessions. They cut into your margins and make you miserable trying to keep them happy.

You can have them. I’ll take the easy clients, thank you.


Hourly billing is dead. Long live hourly billing.


hourly billing or alternative legal feesLawyers haven’t always billed by the hour. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that fixed fee schedules were mandatory in some states. Legal fees were regulated by state bar associations and everyone was required to charge the same amount for the same service.

Today, hourly billing is the norm but many attorneys advocate alternative fee arrangements. I’m one of them.

When you equate what you do with the amount of time it takes to do it you put artificial limits on your value, and your income. In contrast to the oft-quoted statement, lawyers have far more to sell than their time.

We sell our experience, our creativity, and our problem-solving abilities. We do more than write documents, argue, or negotiate, we save lives and preserve fortunes. We help the free world stay free.

Clients prefer fixed fees, too. They want to know how much it’s going to cost them to hire you. They want to know they won’t be giving you a blank check. Lawyers who offer alternatives to hourly billing are thriving.

Not everyone agrees. Some lawyers defend hourly billing. Maybe their clients are different.

I’m not an expert on alternative billing models, but I do know that the world’s highest paid attorneys, the ones who earn the equivalent of thousands of dollars per hour of work, don’t charge by the hour. Not if they’re honest, anyway.

Attorneys can begin to earn more (without working more) by embracing the idea that they have far more to sell than their time.

I’d like to hear from you. Do you use alternative fee arrangements? If not, why not? If so, how have you benefited?


“Could you take anything off your fee?”


An estate planner who does a lot of seminars asked about discounting fees, a subject that comes up quite frequently. His question and my response:

Q: About 20% of prospective clients ask if I can "take anything off" my fee. I have positioned myself as being a specialist who charges a bit more. I usually do take a few hundred dollars off so I don’t lose the client but I wonder is that smart or am I devaluing my services?

A: The answer is, simply, don’t do it. Most clients don’t shop fees and the ones who do you don’t need. Especially since you (correctly) position yourself as being worth more. You devalue your services and professionalism when you say yes to a request for a discount. Word will spread and before you know it, you’ll have people say, "I heard you gave Joe Jones a $300 discount, could I get that, too?" Before you know it, you’ll be giving everyone a discount, and then where are you?
At times, it’s okay to offer a discount, such as when you tie it to a "good cause" or as a closing tool at the end of a seminar, but NOT when they ask. Can you imagine asking your doctor for a discount?

The proper way to handle someone who asks for a lower fee is to let them know that if they can’t afford you, you would be happy to refer them to a lawyer who charges less. Watch, not one in 20 will go. But even if they all did (all 20% who ask), that’s okay, those are the ones you want to let go. Lawyers should continually prune the lowest 20% of their client base in favor of upgrading the quality of their clients and the fees they charge them.

Alternately, see if there are any services you could offer them "within their budget". If your complete package has A, B, and C components, you could offer them A and B for a lower fee; perhaps they can get C later.