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LexisNexis Bellwether report on value: The client-lawyer disconnect and fixed fees

There is still a significant disconnect between lawyers and their clients when it comes to their perception of value, a survey out today (10 October) reveals, with only a minority of law firms also having shifted away from the billable hour despite seeing great opportunity in fixed fees.

£20 notesThere is still a significant disconnect between lawyers and their clients when it comes to their perception of value, a survey out today (10 October) reveals, with only a minority of law firms also having shifted away from the billable hour despite seeing great opportunity in fixed fees.

LexisNexis UK’s The Bellwether Report: A Question of Value survey, which canvassed the opinion of 122 lawyers and 108 clients from across the sector, finds that 30% of lawyers think they offer “excellent value for money” but only 8% of clients agree.

The survey also finds that 43% of lawyers see fixed fees as an opportunity but only 23% of firms have shifted towards that billing model in the past year.

In terms of recognising what their clients value most, the majority of lawyers said “a clear indication of costs/fixed fees.” However, asked the same question, clients’ number one priority was “a clear understanding of my particular needs.”

On a more positive note, 76% of lawyers who see fixed fees as an opportunity also see themselves as entrepreneurs and tend to be, according to the Bellwether report, more progressive, more open to change and more customer-centric. “Our research shows they are investing more in their processes, technology and marketing. They are more likely to have a Client Service Policy and be using CRM software. And they are more likely to have non-fee earning business experts from outside the legal industry on staff,” the report says.

“Lawyers have come a long way in recognising the business potential of fixed fees, but a more resolute change in mind set is needed to optimise this model,” said Jon Whittle, market development director at LexisNexis UK. “To deliver ‘value’, they must evaluate their service through clients’ eyes. As the research shows, the smart, entrepreneurial lawyers are already doing this – they are also more amenable to change and adopting processes, technology and marketing to make it happen. The rest must follow too if they are to be successful.”

The sub report entitled ‘A Question of Value’ is derived from research behind The Bellwether 2016 Report: The Riddle of Perception, which explores the future state of the legal landscape from the point of view of independent lawyers, midsize law firms and sole practitioners.

One reply on “LexisNexis Bellwether report on value: The client-lawyer disconnect and fixed fees”

This fits well with work we did many years ago, which identified that price was a smaller factor in predicting whether clients would make referrals or stay loyal to the firm than a number of other ‘touchy feely’ factors. Though that related to smaller firms than in the LN report, nonetheless it is clear that the profession has consistently not quite read their clients’ thinking as regards what constitutes ‘value’.

As a buyer of legal services, I like fixed fees (as a vendor my firm was using them 20 years ago)because they give clients certainty and (in simple terms) they know what number to pop into their cash-flow forecast. There is also a residual suspicion that by the hour charging rewards inefficiency.

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