Matt Homen ("Six Minutes on Client Service Design") suggests breaking down the client service experience to identify and deliver value on what “drives the client freakin’ crazy” about the experience.  For example, waiting in an airport check-in line is part of the experience of going to the airport. By focusing on what the person in line is thinking and feeling you can identify what they value most at that particular point in time – “I want the line to move faster.”

I’ve recently helped a client retain outside counsel. Getting the chance to participate in this process from the client side of things revealed that retaining counsel is itself part of the client service experience. Even if the outside counsel pitching the work is not successful, if they’ve delivered on the value the client places on the experience, they create a relationship that likely will give rise to future work from this client or others with whom the client shares the experience.

Take that part of the retention process where the client is interviewing the short list of lawyer candidates. What does the client want in that moment? The answer, in the client’s voice, is that “I want to the interview to be more productive.” 

How to deliver on this value? What must you do to make the interview more productive?Continue Reading Getting Interviewed by Client: Be Less Annoying

Not unlike many of my colleagues, I’m spending what is turning out to be an amazingly beautiful Spring weekend in the Bay Area preparing tax returns due next week – most specifically those of my law business, Confluence Law Partners.

What I’ve discovered is that there are key components of Confluence’s model that don’t fit neatly within standard accounting practices, resulting in higher bookkeeping and tax preparation costs and exposing me and the firm to potentially higher tax liability.

While its going to take some time for the new normal shop to reduce bookkeeping and tax preparation costs, there are some things that can be done now to protect against inflated tax liability.   Furthermore, on reflection, its not surprising that current bookkeeping practices are not easily applied to the new normal model’s aggregation of outside legal and non-legal services; status quo bookkeeping practices are directed to serving insular status quo hourly law firms that don’t rely on significant outside collaborations to deliver legal services and whose model dissuades its lawyers from using outside legal services.  More after the jump.Continue Reading Tax and Accounting Practice Lags Behind New Normal Model

A safety valve in a flat fee litigation agreement that puts off for a later date the negotiation of fees for late phase activities such as trial should probably include at least a default hourly fee pending the re-bargaining of a new flat rate.  (Yes, notwithstanding my strong bias in favor of flat fee pricing, I’m suggesting a possible, limited application of an hourly-based fee.)

My flat fee engagements for litigation services tend not to cover trial or the 60-90 day run-up to trial but instead propose to negotiate a mutually acceptable terms if and when the matter reaches this stage.  This "safety valve" protects against a situation where the time required to provide effective representation increases dramatically due to circumstances not reasonably foreseeable at the outset of the engagement.

There are very good reasons for  building in such a safety valve.  The legal services provided in connection with trying a case are shaped by a myriad of strategic decisions that are made by client relatively close in time to the commencement of trial and these decisions in turn are heavily influenced by case developments occurring over many months if not years.  It often is too difficult at the outset of the engagement to gauge pricing for trial with any precision.

While the presumption is that budgets and workplans should be “sticky,” no client wants an honest firm working at such a deficit such that the lawyers involved are incented to look at how they can cut corners or complete the matter more quickly than advisable. Thus, it is necessary for value-based fee arrangements to consider what kinds of “safety valves” can be triggered in the event the time required for effective representation increases dramatically due to unforeseen circumstances.

Navigating Professional Ethics Issues in the Changing Legal Service Paradigm,”  discussion draft from Susan Hackett at the Association for Corporate Counsel (available to Legal OnRamp Members here.)

Inserting the safety valve is rarely a deal killer in eyes of the client, who, at the outset of a matter, are focused on reducing the cycle to resolution or achieving a favorable outcome in the near term – trial, in their minds, is far off in the future and easily left for another day.  And why should trial counsel seek to disabuse them of this attitude where the great, great majority of litigations are resolved prior to trial?

However, leaving the re-bargaining of trial services for another day has it’s own issues, as explained (and solved) after the jump.Continue Reading Hourly “Safety Valves” for Flat Fee Litigation