The value conversation with clients can be difficult at times.
To have a quality value conversation, there are many elements that are needed to be in play to have a meaningful discussion wherein the clients would be satisfied at the value that they will be getting from the legal services and the lawyer being equitably compensated.
Here are some:
1. The client should know the meaning of value.
Price is the cost, value is the worth.
If the client cannot make the distinction, then the lawyer will have to spend the time and effort explaining these concepts. While it is possible that the client will get it – at times eventually, it is also likely that the client will not and simply look at the cost-side of the discussion.
Clients shopping for prices, while understandble, usually do not make for good for partnerships on engagements.
Legal services are not commodities where customers can shop around for the lowest price. In fact, ask any experience buyer and he will tell you that the lower the price, the more doubtful it is that the lawyer is experienced in what he/she is doing.
There is a reason why there is a saying that you better hire the best lawyer that your money can buy.
It is true for non-lawyer and even for lawyers who for some reason would be needing the services of another lawyer. I’ve had the privilege of having two lawyers as clients and it was straightforward with them when it came to the value conversation.
2. The lawyer should also know the meaning of (his/her) value.
If the lawyer himself/herself does not know his/her value, then there is likely no value conversation that will take place.
While it is understandable that new/younger lawyers will not know his/her value yet because law school does not a single subject on business is taught in law school, it is inexcusable for an experienced lawyer not to know his/her value on the legal services that he/she is about to extend to the clients.
For an experienced buyer of legal services, clients will see it as a red flag.
Lawyers who have considerable experience already should have a fairly good idea what they bring to the table. Not all lawyers are the same. Not all have the same technical knowledge, skills, experience, and network, to name a few.
It is for these reasons that certain lawyers can deliver on results than others, why some can do it at a shorter time, or why some can be very technical. These and many other factors are what gives value to a lawyer.
Unfortunately, not many lawyers can communicate their value to the client. The usual reason is that they perceive it as a humble brag. To the clients hearing the lawyer’s experiences or track record, however, it is an assurance that they are about to hire or have hired the right lawyer. It is a matter of perspective.
3. The why of the client should be clear.
The client-lawyer relationship is borne out of the why of the client.
The why is the cause or the deep-seated emotional reasons driving the client to get a lawyer.
It would be incorrect and unspecific to use motivation as it connotes the passing and going of a feeling. The why is that emotional drive rootef deep in the clients that guide their thoughts, decisions, and behavior.
Why do you think only a very have a last will and testament? These individuals were not motivated to do it, rather they were personally compelled to do so out of an emotional need to ensure that their heirs will be properly taken cared of or that there would not be any conflict in the family, to name a few reasons.
If the clients are clear with their why, the value conversation would be easier and it would guide the client and the lawyer on the engagement. If the clients are unclear with their why or do not wish to communicate it to their lawyer, then the conversation will likely be shallow and will not truly address the client’s needs. Experienced lawyers can tell.
4. The scope of the engagement, results, and objectives should be clearly written down.
Writing it down validates whether the client and the lawyer are seeing each other eye-to-eye on the scope of the engagement, results, ans objectives.
It is one thing to agree during a meeting. It is another to actually consent to a contractual obligation.
Often, it happens during the proposal drafting that the lawyer realizes the true scope and extent of the legal services based on the discussions with the clients. When I say true, it means that no two proposals/engagements will ever be the same due to the unique circumstances of each client. There may be certain factors that are at play that were not threshed out during the value conversation.
The proposal is meant to capture the value conversation in written form. Hence, experienced lawyers know that they have to dedicate at least an hour or two to think through the engagement, recall discussions with clients, and capture the value of the engagement in writing.
Then comes the price, to which the client and the lawyer is expected to come to an agreement on valuing the legal services. For the client, it is the worth of getting the lawyer. To the lawyer, it is the equitable compensation for the value of his services.