At Rocket Lawyer, we believe legal fees should be both transparent and predictable. Many attorneys agree and have adopted flat-rate/fixed-fee models, or found other means of setting up expectations about their hourly billing up-front. That said, there certainly isn’t a consensus that changing the way lawyers bill can be beneficial for attorneys too. So we’re here to get beyond theory – and talk to an attorney who has successfully implemented transparent and predictable pricing in his own practice.
Enter Josh Gerben, a Washington, DC trademark attorney and the founder of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, who created his firm to help small and large businesses alike have access to trademark lawyers who are affordable and responsive to their needs. We caught up with Mr. Gerben for a few minutes and learned how he used a non-traditional fee structure to build one of the largest trademark practices in the country. Read on to find out more about how Mr. Gerben did it, and if you’re an attorney, take our quick survey to make your voice heard.
1. When it comes to pricing, what makes your law firm different from the majority of law firms? Why did you decide to take a different approach?
My firm does trademarks, and nothing else. Because we focus on a niche area of law, we can develop systems that allow us to offer flat rate pricing on almost all our services. This flat rate pricing model, while talked about a lot in legal circles, is still hard for clients to find. By contrast, 95% of my firm’s billings are done on a flat rate basis and are advertised on our Web site, www.gerbenlaw.com. Clients, especially the entrepreneurs and small-business people whom we want to appeal to, often have horror stories about lawyers who do some work for them, then hit them with a surprise bill in the thousands of dollars. I talk with clients before we begin work to set the flat fee. The client knows in advance what he or she is paying. My firm is extremely focused on customer service and delivering quality work on budget.
2. What methods do you use to communicate your pricing to your current and potential clients?
Unlike most attorneys, we put our fees right on our Web site, www.gerbenlaw.com. This is extremely transparent pricing model. Everyone pays the same price. We work hard to direct Web traffic to our site, and the vast majority of our clients come to us through the site. So they have seen our fee structure before they even call us.
3. How did you figure out how much to charge for each service? By track record? Competitive intelligence? Other?
We used some competitive intelligence and adjusted as time went on (and continue to adjust as needed). Over time, you learn how much time clients require and how long certain matters take to complete. Based on that experience, we set the price accordingly.
4. Do you think it’s easier to get clients when you have transparent and predictable pricing? Why or why not?
Absolutely. When we say what the cost will be, and then come back to the client with a completed trademark registration and a bill for the same price, clients are actually surprised and pleased. This keeps the referrals flowing.
5. Are there any dangers that other lawyers should be aware of when implementing transparent and predictable pricing?
Yes. Always be careful to build in time for client consultation. No matter where they are located and how seemingly automated the process is, clients still want to talk to you on the phone and need your time. We make sure to build that consultation time into pricing so it is fair to both sides.
6. Would you recommend your approach to other attorneys?
Yes. This pricing model is very appropriate in trademark registrations or in any other kind of legal matter where a specific task needs to be accomplished that is basically within the control of the attorney. A closing on a residential property or the drafting of an employment contract would be good examples. On the other hand, there are types of legal matters such as litigation where billable hours make more sense than flat fees. All that said, there are plenty of legal services that could be converted to flat fees.
Readers: what do you think? Please leave your comments below and if you’re a lawyer yourself, take our quick survey to make your voice heard.