When pricing a product, it is said that price should reflect a quid pro quo for value received. Price, however, communicates much more. It tells us about the assumptions people use in determining value. A higher price normally implies a higher value. Price is said to affect even the experience of using a product.
Studies show that people are actually attracted to higher-priced products because price is seen as predictive of quality. The converse is also true: People expect lower-priced products to be lower in quality than higher-priced ones.
In law, as in most professional services, the issue of price presents a unique challenge on the value spectrum. Compared to the value of a product, which is tangible and feature-driven, the value of service is much more difficult to define.
But clients know valuable service when they experience it.
Justifying a premium hourly rate has more to do with the quality of your service than any other single factor, including the prevailing market rate. Clients expect to pay more for superior service. In fact, clients’ perceived value of quality counsel is reinforced by a premium hourly rate. Studies have shown that when selecting a service, clients who can afford either a low or a high price are three times as likely to choose the higher price. It is well known that increasing price will not, in itself, decrease the demand for a service. In fact, the opposite may happen.
Sometimes lawyers put more significance on their fees than on their clients. For most clients, the quality of the legal service—the level of trust and the degree to which their lawyer is truly committed to them—is more important than the money they spend.
Becoming client-centric requires shifting your perspective. In fact, it requires you to view the services you provide from the clients’ perspective. In doing so, you will discover what specific objective and subjective needs are important.
This knowledge is the foundation from which you will articulate what service actually means relative to your clients’ expectations. Then you will know what needs to be done to exceed those expectations.
For some attorneys, this shift to a client-centric perspective is more challenging than they would like to admit.
Thinking emotionally—probing into clients’ personal lives and exploring their subjective satisfaction—seems disturbingly nebulous. After all, lawyers are paid to think, not to feel.
Lawyers are also taught and trained to be language driven—weaving words into sentences and sentences into arguments, which are then carefully slotted into accepted logical abstractions. But it’s intuition that ultimately seems to rule us. No matter how compelling an argument may be, in the context of words and logic, it is what we feel and know internally to be true that guides our decisions and judgments.
It has been said that words and logic are the essential tools of a lawyer’s craft. Consequently, lawyers tend to rely more on words than on the emotions they produce.
As wordsmiths, lawyers tend to view words as if they were the actual things words describe, rather than being representative of those things. As a result, lawyers—like other professionals who work with words—tend to over identify language with reality. This can result in getting lost in our own abstractions as we underestimate the deeply subjective and experiential side of what ultimately is communicated to clients and others.
After years of practice, legal skills are second nature to most attorneys. But the truth is, superior service demands that lawyers take another look at their roles with clients. Lawyers are paid to think, but they must admit that their clients are not buying only their technical knowledge and skill.
Whether or not they know it consciously, clients are buying a special type of relationship—one they expect will be based on trust and confidence. Part of law firm marketing, therefore, must come from understanding the lawyer’s role as a
counselor and not just as a legal technician.
Problem solving must address the emotional side of clients’ needs. Traditionally, this area has been considered outside the accepted domain of a lawyer’s role, and adding it to our services requires that we re-examine what it means to be a legal thinker and, in a broader sense, precisely what lawyers are paid to do. Only then can lawyers truly understand the relationship between law firm fees and what clients truly value from their lawyer.
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