I had never thought of digital assets being inherited! Wow, what an oversight. Clearly, digital property is an asset and can be passed on to the next generation. Have you thought about the goodwill represented by your Twitter account, your blog, you website and all the other digital assets you create? If not, you should because but for an affirmative act on your part, the rights to that property may be lost.
Most lawyers will pooh-pooh the idea that their electronic/digital property is worth anything … they said this about the value of their law practice also. Many lawyers are beginning to adjust their thinking, recognizing that law practice goodwill has value … and together, this property could be worth tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Why should this value evaporate? Take care and plan not only your estate but also the estate of your law practice, including digital assets!
A Canadian lawyer was on his way to a hearing for a client. Driving to the airport, he found himself in a deluge that "buried" his car, a new Ferrari. He abandoned his car and found another way to the airport to fly from his city to another for a hearing on the following morning. All this for the benefit of his client. By the way, he won his motion on the following day!
Client service to the extreme! What have you done for your clients lately?
Most of us can notice when something “isn’t right” with our bodies, and we often are quick to jump to a conclusion about the cause.Yet what we perceive to be the problem, and the reality behind it, may be much different.
A urologist recently shared an example with me, saying that many people come to him to “fix the problem” of an over-active bladder at night.They typically attribute it to a “plumbing” issue that a pill or even surgery can cure.Yet this doctor suggested that, as people age, they sleep less and they’re likely to be awakened more easily by sounds that didn’t disturb them in earlier years – a dog barking, the house creaking.Once they’re awake, they decide to honor the bladder urge so they can go back to sleep. The perception is that there is a physical medical problem.The real cause is the natural aging process and the best “cure” is to accept it.
Transfer this lesson to a law practice.Most lawyers are quick to perceive a problem when there is less money coming in the door.They immediately jump to a conclusion about “the cure” – do more marketing, or raise rates.The reality is that declining revenue typically began long before as a problem with receivables.Generating new work to cover declining revenue simply isn’t the answer.The strategy is to make sure clients know they must pay their bills within 30 days.And the way to do that is specify clear collection terms in the engagement agreement. Lawyers perceive every client as valuable and hate to cut them loose; the reality is that continuing to do work for overdue clients who don’t pay shows those clients are not worth keeping.
A new study by George Washington Law School showed that realization rates (the amount of money billed that is collected) average 83.6 percent for all law firms, a figure that is a historic low.If you perceive your revenue is down, and the reality is that you only collect 80 cents on the dollar, you’re like the urologist’s patients – you won’t get many good nights of sleep.
McDonald’s advertising is changing, according to one report. Last year, Big M promoted higher-priced menu items. While more healthy food is important, Big M couldn’t show the value of its new menu items to the consumer. Today, the company’s emphasis is on “value,” the lower priced items that its customer base is accustomed to receiving.
If your market is the commodity-type legal services, then you will have less flexibility in setting legal fees. If your market is more toward the unique, the special or the bet-the-company type practice, then you will have greater flexibility and can charge more for your services. The key element is to understand the nature of your customer and then communicate effectively with the client.
Georgetown Law School’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession recently suggested that earlier realization rates of 92% have gone down to a historic low of 85%. That means for every dollar billed, the law firm is collecting only 85 cents.
My suspicion is that these numbers are reflective of "Big Law," and not the profession as a whole, certainly not the sole practitioner who comprises the bulk of the profession. That is why I wrote: Collecting Your Fee: Getting Paid from Intake to Invoice, published by the American Bar Association. Few lawyers understand the difference and fewer can cite the numbers from their own law practice. This is an area where additional revenue can be obtained easily, merely by paying attention to your clients payment records and understanding who doesn’t pay your full bill and why … and then dealing with this issue. This is one of the most challenging issues in my coaching/consulting practice…helping lawyers be more effective with their clients and receive a higher percentage of their billings from satisfied clients.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, the writer suggests that high priced lawyers are for sale, that is, that clients are pushing back and demanding lower fees irrespective of the stated hourly rates of their lawyers. The reporter’s perspective is skewed only to the larger law firms, “Big Law.” Small firm and sole practitioners have always walked this tight rope between client acceptance and lawyers’ fees, but this doesn’t make news.
The battle between lawyer as vendor and client as purchaser has always existed. The “battle” or adversarial conflict just never received so much publicity as it does now … And yes, some clients have become bolder as a result of the recent Depression (aka Great Recession).
Also, however, some lawyers will raise their purported rates knowing the financial officer of the corporate client will demand a discount. This way, the law firm receives the engagement, the General Counsel gets served and can protect the rights of the company, and the finance officer can assert he/she saved money for the company. A nice game.
A lawyer who was interviewed for the article suggests the real issue for all concerned: The client must believe he/she/it is receiving value for the fee paid. In other words, it’s the total cost of the legal service, not the rate per hour, that is significant. With more clients and attorneys beginning to speak this language, the real issue is coming into focus.