I’ve recently encountered several people with serious legal problems who wanted to negotiate (lowball) my fees. Now, I will work with worthy clients on payment terms, and in civil cases will consider flexible, creative billing plans - a mix of hourly rate and contingent fee, for example. I’m not talking about those situations.
No, I’m talking about people who think they are going to beat me down to what would amount to an hourly rate of about 25 cents. Earlier this week, a man called me about a personal injury claim. He had been in a car wreck, and had soft tissue injuries - commonly known as whiplash. He wanted a board certified lawyer, which I am, and asked what my fee would be, and I told him the industry standard - 25% if the case settled before suit, 1/3 after suit was filed, and 40% if it went to trial. He told me that lawyers in San Antonio were working for 18%. I said good, go hire one and see what kind of recovery you get.
Then today, a young man with two misdemeanor criminal charges in San Antonio got snotty when I told him I would represent him for a reasonable fee, competitive for lawyers with my skills, experience and reputation. He said the last time he was in trouble in a much more serious case it had cost a lot less. I told him he should go back to that lawyer. He then wanted to negotiate, and I told him okay - the price just went up $2,000 because I can see you're going to be high maintenance and a pain in the ass.
I won’t compete on price. New law grads can’t find jobs. There will always be some lawyer out there who will take your case for rock bottom fees. I saw a sign in a hair salon one time that asked, how much would you pay for a bad haircut? It’s your freedom, or your children, or your property that’s at stake. How much would you pay for an inexperienced or crappy lawyer?
I've decided that I am going to be more consistent in what I charge clients on fixed fee cases. I respect my loyal clients, and would not feel right offering new clients a lower price. I don’t compete on price. I compete with a better product that continues to grow, as well as better service to keep my clients happy.
Remember, as some sage said:
"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten."