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Lawyer bemusement and time-billing battles

Lawyer bemusement and time-billing battles

After much furour within the pages of The New Lawyer, Melbourne lawyer David Windsor writes a letter to the Editor on how he determines price structures to suit clients.


I've been following the Alternative Billing debate with keen interest and bemusement.  

Regardless of how complex we think the business of law to be, I'd suggest it is no more complex than the business of our clients, and often less so, and as such surely we can come up with reasonable, justifiable and certain pricing structures & options like any other business. 

My SME and corporate clients ask for a fee estimate 95% of the time.  About 90% of the time I get it right.  The 10% that I get wrong I either win or lose (swings and round abouts).  Either way, a happy client is a paying client is a loyal client - at least that's my experience.  Although I don't make it to the rarified heights of 6+ figure legal projects, I often enough find myself doing 5 figure projects with varying degrees of complexity, documentation, field work and haggling. 

Agreeing a price, defining the scope and justifying the value is painless enough given that clients are expecting to pay, appreciate the service they are paying for and understand the risks and opportunities of why they're paying.  I have the advantage of being in the game for 15+ years and having a pretty good idea of how projects pan out, both positively and negatively, thus making it easier for me than it would a younger player.

The way I see it, clients want three things from me: 1. A job well done (at a price); 2. To sleep at night (at a price); 3. Price certainty (no surprises). 

And there are three things I want from my clients: 1. Satisfaction; 2. Repeat business; 3. Payment.

I find that these six goals dovetail nicely and providing you know your business, operate with integrity, have healthy self-respect and communicate value, then agreeing the right price is not such a big issue.  And best of all, it can all be done without timesheets!

David Windsor is a Melbourne Lawyer & Commercial Counsel with a general business law practice. He freelances with in-house legal teams, and acts for SMEs and corporates. His mission is to share his know-how, operate with integrity and foster the growth of his clients, his network and himself (& go on skiing trips twice a year).

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