By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
Those of us who work on flat fees often struggle to find the right price point. Most of us are drastically undercharging and thus undervaluing our services. There are great arguments for hourly billing and there is no "right answer" to whether it is better to bill flat v hourly. Ultimately only you know what woks best for you and your practice, but if you want to give Flat fees a try, it is imperative to set the right fee otherwise you will end up with a volume-full but value-less practice.
Here are a few tips and considerations to help make flat fees work for you.
1. Consider ALL work that must be done in the case.
This is the number one mistake that I see Attorneys make with flat fee billing. Most Attorneys usually only account for the time that it takes for them to do their portion of the work. They don't fully account for all of the administrative tasks associated with the case- which includes client contact!
Most Attorneys do not account for the "check in" calls that they we inevitably receive from clients. This is something that takes time and must be built into the fee. Also, sending monthly update letters (link to the U Visa and also case status letters) is an important task that takes time (printing, signing, preparing the envelope, mailing, etc).
Some cases will take years to resolve so that means over the course of years your clients will be calling to check in, want to have meetings, etc. All of this must be contemplated, and included, in your flat fee.
2. Not all flat fees are equal
It is easy to fall into the trap of setting one flat fee for a case type and then not budging from that price. This fails to take into consideration the facts and circumstances of the particular case that is in front of you. Some factors that should cause your set flat fee to increase are:
- Urgent Cases
If you must work nights, weekends, holidays because of the urgency of the case, that deserves an increased fee.
- High Maintenance Clients
You know them when you meet them. Charge them more. You will always be glad that you did, and always regret when you didn’t.
- Length of Case
Some cases, by their very nature, cannot be resolved quickly. For immigration attorneys, we are seeing a very long wait for U Visas, for example. Because of the additional work and client contact required in a long case, your feel should be higher.
- Likelihood of Additional Work
Depending on your practice area, there may be additional work that could come up later in the case but that is not required in the outset. In immigration law, there are certain case types that often receive Requests for Evidence. If you do not want to charge for that work separately (which can be a good idea and can be built into your contract ← link here to the contract for sale), you need to estimate the amount of time and resources that will be required to complete that extra work in the event that it comes up.
3. Stay Strong in Your Pricing
So, so, so, so many of us struggle with sticking with our pre-determined prices (which makes it even harder when we get to the special circumstances discussed in #2). This is especially true for us women. We begin to take into account the client’s personal circumstances, our personal feelings about the case, the injustice of the system, etc, etc, and then we slash prices. I call this “negotiating against ourselves.” Usually the client does not ask for a discount or a cheaper price, we just offer it.
It is important to hold hard to your prices and say them with confidence. This mostly boils down to valuing your work. You provide an important, life-changing service. You deserve to be paid for it. Doing excellent work and making an excellent living are not mutually exclusive. You can do both.
Staying true to our value and our pricing is especially true in the new year with the Trump presidency. Many of us who fight for justice will feel downtrodden, overwhelmed, and caught up in the injustice of what his administration will bring. Because we care so much, we will want to start cutting prices because we feel bad for what is happening to our clients and their families. However, we cannot cure an injustice by cutting our prices. We can fight against the injustices by doing outstanding work and being the advocates our clients deserve.
What tips do you have for setting the right flat fee?
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.