How often are you checking the price of an item on Amazon before buying? Every time? Almost every time? I do. There is no doubt that this buying behavior is becoming the market norm for consumer goods and even for some services where a consumer requests a quote and providers jump in to compete for the business. Just look at the insurance aggregator websites like www.esurance.com
or home mortgage websites like www.lendingtree.com
So, the article “The Future of Branded Professional Services
” by Jim Delkousis at Persuit caught my attention this morning and made me think “but what about for our professional services?” Can a prospective client go online and “shop” law firms? Can they put their case data online to allow lawyers and firms to bid for the case?? Not really. Not yet anyway.
Why not? Is it because each case is sooooo unique that it can’t be done? I don’t buy that and I don’t think clients do either. Obviously, in law there are some variables that are out of our control. However, I’ll go so far as to say that the lack of predictability of the firm’s workload in a case is directly proportional to the experience of the law firm in conducting those types of cases. If you’re a niche expert and have done that type of case many, many times then there shouldn’t be that much that surprises you about a case. And, if something really unforeseeable occurs, then why not address it with the client and handle it that way they do in construction, with a “change order”?
The reality is that we lawyers are not allowing market pricing to happen. Lawyers have refused and mostly continue to refuse transparency of fees. In our firm Lawvex, LLP, we do trusts and estates planning, administration and litigation in Central California. Unless I happen to be on the opposite side of a petition for fees by another lawyer and firm, I have no clue what the other trust and estate lawyers hourly rate is much less what they charged on a particular type of case. Instead of doing the difficult work of organizing, analyzing and systematizing their fee structures, lawyers would much rather just bill a few more hours thereby continuing to work IN the business instead of ON the business.
At Lawvex, our mission is to put an end to clients’ frustrations with our legal system and lawyers generally. We want to restore the honor and respect that lawyers deserve. And, we are willing to do the hard work for it. Even in the area of transparency of fees and billing. So, we made transparency one of our core values, we offer fixed fee estate planning services and we are working through the challenges of matter budgets, how to create them and how to adhere to them.
I don’t know exactly what it will ultimately look like, but I can tell you we will continue to innovate and drive change so that we are eventually prepared to quickly assess, estimate and provide a quote for a case with a guaranteed maximum price, similar to the construction industry, so that our clients can have the foresight of their financial exposure up front and the benefit of market comparisons with other law firms that are brave enough and care enough to do the hard work necessary to have that ability.