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Use Alternative Fee Arrangement to Bilk Your Clients

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Just like giants of the legal industry Jay Shepherd and Sam "Gansta-Lover" Glover, Lawyerlite loves alternative fee arrangements. But, you have to make sure that you use these alternative fee arrangements properly. If you're doing more work but getting paid less, guess what? You're doing it wrong.

Don't to it wrong. In fact, do the opposite. Do it right. And here's how:

First, let's clear up a common misconception. Alternative fee arrangements are not limited to flat fee billing. Flat fees are just one of many alternative billing models.

Next, try to find areas where you can give someone something they really need without really doing a lot of work to provide it. If that doesn't seem like an obvious thing to do, just consider the opposite. Look at Angry Birds. Someone spent a lot of time making something that no one needs, and then they let Droid users get it for free. Well that's obviously a losing way to do things, and you don't want your law firm to suffer the same dismal fate as Angry Birds.

 

Forms

Using forms is a great way to charge a lot of money for not doing much. You slap a new name on the top of your response to a debt collection letter, and bingo-bango, charge your client $150. If you're really smart, you won't even have to make your own forms. Just get some forms some other smart guys made and use them instead.

You don't even have to manually change the client's name. You can create a table in MS Word, plug in all your client names, and use list merge to have your computer do all the monotonous work for you. Hell, tell your secretary to enter the information, mail the letters, and bill the clients. A good office printer can go at about 40 pages per minute, assume no more than 4 pages per form, and at a rate of $150 each, you can pull in $90,000 per hour, and that's money you made while out golfing all morning.

Use some fucking forms.

 

Subscriptions

A subscription plan allows a client to use your services for matters that come up on a regular basis. Securities filings, shell corporation formation, child support back pay, and sexual harassment defense are all areas where subscriptions make sense.

The client agrees to pay a certain amount each time they need your services, and you have a reliable source of steady income. This is very different from the industry norm, where clients hire different attorneys every time they need something, and if they ever return to the same attorney, they must pay an amount different from what they paid the previous time.

You might be thinking that the subscription agreement is really just a series of flat fees. And, you might be thinking that the use of forms is also just a flat fee plan. But, they're not. Why aren't they? After all, the client is paying a specified, fixed amount of money for a discrete task. That looks like text book flat fee.

The key is leverage. If you can learn to misuse the term "leverage" with a straight face, then you can call shit anything you want. Pigeon is squab, there's a meaningful difference between the promise-breaking, idiot-pandering, corporate-whoring Democratic and Republican parties, and flat fees are now non-flat fee alternative billing models.

 

Unbundled Services

Just because you represented a client on one matter, doesn't mean you have to represent them on every other matter they have. If you represent a client in a contract dispute, you don't have to represent them in their divorce or help their kid out when he gets in a wreck after driving drunk.

Instead, you can just make an appearance in court, piss off the judge and opposing counsel, and peace out, sticking your client with a fat bill and all the responsibility for winning the case.

But, using this billing model is going to require some top-notch bullshitting skills. It's easy to pad your bills when the client doesn't know all the odd jobs that go in to working on their matter. But, with unbundled services, you're going to have a hard time explaining to your client why they need to pay $4000 for a 20 minute appearance before the judge. You can't fluff the amount of time you spent reviewing documents and prepping for depositions, because the client did all that.

On second thought, maybe unbundled services is a bad way to go. Seems like the client gets your most valuable work without having to pay for all the bells and whistles. Try going the alternative route instead:

 

Consigliere

Want you need to do is convince your client that all their legal issues are interconnected. Their business contracts are in fact related to their divorce proceedings (you don't want the ex to get half your accounts receivable), the kid's DUI is also tied into the business (if not handled properly, there could be negative press which would hurt business and maybe cause some parties to breach their contracts). Explain to the client that you only handle matters you know you can do well, but to ensure top notch performance, you need to be able to handle anything that's related.

Basically, you get a right of first refusal to handle any legal problem the client ever has. You'll definitely want to bill by the hour for this one, or if you can get it, a flat yearly salary.

[Read more from Lawyerlite]


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