It happens often in Legal Project Management workshops when talk turns to how aggressively clients are pressing to control legal fees. Some partner leans back in his chair and proclaims that LPM simply does not apply to his work because his clients don’t care how much is spent on legal fees. This stunning revelation occurs in almost every practice group, every jurisdiction, and every firm: “I don’t need this stuff, because my clients are not fee-sensitive.”
These partners are not referring to “bet the company” matters where the stakes or the risks justify top-dollar fee structures. We all know that in such unprecedented situations, companies focused on saving the ship (or avoiding spending time behind bars) will pay steep legal tariffs.
No, these partners are talking about pricing far more routine matters, and they talk as if these deep-pocketed clients of theirs – if they in fact exist at all — somehow represent the current norm rather than wishful historical artifacts. Let’s be clear: a far more accurate generalization is that these days the vast majority of clients – okay, all of ‘em — are ruled by their budgets and have laser-like focus on reducing legal costs, squeezing maximum value from their legal representation, and holding to well- defined budgets. The assertion that there are clients who have so much available cash to burn on legal fees or are so unconcerned with legal costs that they blithely write checks for whatever amount the legal invoice requests represents either fiction, fantasy, or a striking exception to prevailing legal trends. Either that, or it represents evidence that certain law firm partners are out of touch with their clients’ needs and priorities.
If this claim that their clients don’t care about rates and fees had been trotted out only a few times, it would be easy to subscribe to the out-of-touch explanation. But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Because lawyers are generally not given to delusional thinking, I’ve decided to give credence to their declarations and – rather like Diogenes and his lamp – conduct a search for clients with bottomless wallets. Here goes:
Hello, hello! If you are a legal client who simply pays legal bills without review, who does not care about the numbers on the invoice, and who has a bottomless wallet, please contact me. I can make you the most popular person in North America. I can get you a lot more than 15 minutes of fame! There is a great deal of interest in your attitude by every one of the 1,225,452 licensed attorneys in the United States. They want to meet and court you. They are willing to provide “hang the expense” lawyering in which efficiency plays second fiddle to their sheer legal brilliance. There is no doubt that I can line up feature interviews for you with the WSJ, NYT, CNN, and every other news outlet, because you are such a rara avis – a rare bird. Don’t be shy. Like unicorns, the Loch Ness monster, and Sasquatch, we know that you are out there somewhere. Let’s have a look at you!