I am surprised at how many attorneys think it is difficult to be profitable on a fixed price model. There are several misconceptions that many of them have that I would like to address in this blog. Here are some of them and why they are incorrect:
1) Our pricing is menu prcing.
Response: No. It is certainly not. You cannot be a premium player in the market with menu-based pricing. If you are pricing on a menu basis, then you are engaging in a form of cost-plus pricing, which is no different than the billable hour model (only worse because you shifted the risk to the firm without the corresponding reward.) Menu priced players are almost certain to be working on the lower end of the value curve.
2) Our pricing is an estimate of hours times our billing rate.
Response: Certainly not! Why would we do such a thing? Again, that is yet another form of cost-plus pricing like billing by the hour. These pricing models are based on Karl Marx's long-refuted labor theory of value, which supposes that a good or services derives its value based on the labor (or time) input. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't tip the stewardess or captain $50 for every 1/2hr longer that it takes my flight to reach the destination. . . . . . yes, it certainly costs them a hell of a lot more money in gas, lost connections, unhappy customers, etc, but if anything the value to me goes down over time, but certainly NOT UP! (Yes, yes, people, of course you have to operate a profitable busines, but for God's sake you don't have to be 30% profitable on every 6 minutes. I would rather be 40% profitable as a business than guarantee that I am 30% profitable on every 6-minute increment . . . . . guaranteeing profitability at this resolution has a very high cost and no return to the investors.
3) It is hard to make money Value Pricing
Response: No. If it is hard for you to make money value pricing then it has nothing to do with your pricing model . . . . you just have no concept of your own value. Many professionals actually believe that what they do is provide a commodity service. If you believe this then you will never make money value pricing. This is because you believe that you cannot add more value than anyone else providing a smimilar service. A product only becomes a commodity when you believe it to be a commodity. Think of water, for instance. It is the most abundant resource on this earth . . . . while the rest of you bozos are thinking it is a commodity some genius was out there putting it in little bottles with a pretty label and making millions of dollars selling it for $1.50/bottle. Where are you now? Well, he's rich and you are now sitting at your desk drinking bottled water that costs you more per barrell than oil and still thinking that you are providing a commodity service. The problem is not your pricing model, it's YOUR HEAD!
Furthermore, even if you believe you can add value, most attorneys are TERRIBLE pricers. First of all, I have sat in a room with hundreds of attorneys in the past 2 years and watched them try to price a hypothetical case. They always go back to time and effort, or they discount their own value and try to argue why the client would never pay more than a certain amount. If that is what you think, you certainly will never command a premium for your services. Again, the profitability problem is not in the model, IT's IN YOUR HEAD! At Exemplar, we get together and talk about how many different ways we can add value to the client and make great things happen that noone else can! After that, we realize just how much better and unique our value added services are compared to everyone else. Then, we think of all of the reasons why the customer would be crazy to chooses anyone but us . . . because we are that confident in the value we deliver. We back it up with a guarantee, and then ask for a tip if we do a great job! (Keep in mind, we select our clients. . .and we are prepared to walk away from clients who are satisfied with "average" legal counsel. We let them know up front that Exemplar is not for clients who want to shop at Wal-Mart for legal counsel. This is the Ritz. It's not cheap, but people love it here!)
The real problem here with attorneys and fixed pricing is that most of them suck at it. You see, inventory in a store does not feel unappreciated if it sits on a shelf for a year. Attorneys, on the other hand, have fragile egos. There is nothing worse for those egos than to be sitting in your office with no clients who want you. The way that most of them deal with this problem is lower the price so that they can feel "wanted." Then, they very carefully raise prices as they get busy, but never very far. Why? Because lawyers hate being rejected. It is much easier to charge a price that noone will argue with than to have to explain yourslef and actually justify the value of their services to a customer. All other businesses have to make this value proposition to clients, but lawyers HATE explaining their value. They think they are too good for that, or that it is somehow beneath them to do so. Consequently, most attorneys who try fixed pricing are more interested in protecting their delicate psychology than actually being profitable. If you cannot GET OVER IT you certainly cannot be profitable on this model. A great family law attorney I know who uses fixed pricing put it right: Be confident and be expensive. The best things in life are expensive. Exemplar wants to be on of the best things in your life. We are not a cheap firm, but we are good, we can provide services that you cannot find anywhere else, and we can each customer attention and a true experience that cannot be acquired at any price at an "average" firm. Average prices are for average lawyers and average customers. There are plenty of those in this country and we don't need any more. Hopefully, some of my colleagues will find the courage and creativity to add more value, be different and better, and charge what they are worth. Then, you will unlock the secret to profitability in a fixed-price model. When you really want to try, send me an email and we'll talk.