Effective client intake and law firm pricing may not seem like closely connected topics, but they are connected and will be even more connected in the future. My column in the September Law Practice Magazine is Effective Client Intake and the Rise of Firm Pricers.
Law firms are retooling and reevaluating many of their operations and procedures. How long has it been since you have taken at look at your new client (or new matter for an existing client) intake procedures? What are the firm's goals? What critical information do you receive for conflict of interest checks? Are there normally handouts of some kind distributed at these initial meetings? Or does this happen completely differently depending on which lawyer is doing the intake? (Note: Decades ago "everyone doing their own thing" was standard operating procedure. Today more uniformity is required.)
Pricing can be a touchy subject. Most lawyers would say setting a fee is an essential part of the attorney client relationship. But in an hourly billing world, lawyers were not really engaged in pricing, but were just notifying the client of the hourly rate and giving a non-binding estimate of total fees.
When I was in private practice, I represented a family-owned company that did concrete and dirt work. The company had many employees, but only a select few could quote a price to potential customers or bind the company with a bid. These individuals, called estimators, were usually long term employees, often family members.
As fixed fees and other alternatives replace hourly billing, does the idea of a pricing specialists make sense for law firms? Law firms will also be coping with a mix of legal tasks, where some will be done by the lawyer and some handled by lawyer-designed-but-not-operated systems within the firm. A strong pricing expert may be needed to deal with the implications of that.
Your attention is also directed to a recent blog post by Greg Lambert on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog titled Client/Matter Opening — What Can We Add to the Process? Greg notes that there is frequently not much prep work done prior to an initial client interview, but there might be a way to automate collection of background information and reports that would be very helpful to the lawyer doing the initial interview. This is particularly true of the large firms, where just a report of everything that the law firm has previously done (or is doing) on behalf of the client would be very useful.
After reading my column and Greg's post, maybe you will have some ideas about improving your client intake process, including consideration of the need for a pricing professional. Many large law firms have already taken that step.
I should also note that my column was contained in the September/October issue of Law Practice Magazine, which is The Leadership Issue. It contains many great articles on law firm leadership.