Money can be a very emotional issue—especially when people are surprised about how much something costs. Yet if a client understands the reasons behind the cost of legal services (and that you’re responsible about providing those services), you’re much more likely to get paid without having to discount your fees.
That’s the gist of Sally J. Schmidt’s “Good Lawyers Talk Money with Their Clients” post on Attorney at Work. “What clients usually want are better communication about, sensitivity to and management of costs,” she writes.
To that end, she offers six tips on how to better communicate with clients about money:
- Have good conversations up front about the expected costs of services.
- Be clear about what is or is not included in your estimate, and what factors will contribute to higher costs.
- Hold the line on expenses.
- Be a good steward of the client’s money.
- Look for ways to cut costs.
- Keep the client posted.
“If you are able to manage expectations about the cost of your services, you are much less likely to have to discount or write off your fees,” she writes. “[Y]ou don’t need clients to feel you are inexpensive; you need clients to feel they received value.”
To read her full post, click here.
By Alison Frankel
Speaking late Saturday afternoon at the Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was every bit as diplomatic as you would expect a woman who has survived the Senate confirmation process to be. Chief Justice John Roberts? “A great chief justice,” who faces the “tall order (of) trying to forge agreement” on a court whose members traditionally treasure the right to go their own way. Justice Clarence Thomas? “I enjoy him enormously. He’s a justice with incredible integrity and a very principled one,” Kagan said. “We disagree on a lot of stuff and we’re going to disagree on a lot of stuff but I enjoy every moment I spend with him.”
And Justice Antonin Scalia, whose opinion in American Express v. Italian Colors was very emphatically disputed by Kagan? The justice told her interviewer, George Washington University law professor and New Republic legal affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen, that she and Scalia go hunting together a few times a year, a tradition that began when she promised one senator before the confirmation vote that even though she hadn’t held a gun – as a native of New York’s Upper West Side, she said, “that just wasn’t what we did” – she’d ask Scalia to take her out shooting. When she joined the court, she told Scalia that this was the single promise she had made in the confirmation process. “He thought it was hilarious,” she said. On their most recent trip, to Wyoming, Kagan shot a deer. (Kagan seemed quite proud of her prowess but the audience wasn’t as enthusiastic.)
By Alison Frankel
Near the end of a delightful interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, CBS journalist Rita Braver asked Williams & Connolly superlawyer Robert Barnett – who also happens to be her husband of many decades – what advice he would offer to young attorneys. Could they, Braver asked, replicate his career path, which took him from a Supreme Court clerkship to the representation of publishing and political luminaries, and service as a sachem of the Democratic party? Barnett said no.
The competition to win a job at a firm like Williams & Connolly is fiercer than ever – Barnett said his firm received 6,000 resumes last year – and the prize at many firms is “drudgery.” (Barnett took care to except W&C’s work from the “drudgery” category.) “If I were a regular practicing lawyer at a megafirm, I would have been out of the law long ago,” he said.
By Alison Frankel
It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that a law firm in possession of a strong client base must be in want of pretty much nothing. (Apologies to Jane Austen.) As a species, lawyers are risk-averse. The practice, after all, is paved in precedent and bad things can happen to you and your clients if you veer off-road.
Here at the Aspen Ideas Festival, however, risk is not a four-letter word. I attended four panels Thursday, on topics ranging from the future of the Republican Party to financing the energy projects of the future. The single theme that ran through all of them is that opportunity grows out of crisis, and the winners of the next decade will be the leaders who aren’t afraid of new ideas.
That might sound intangible, but there are practical implications for lawyers and law firms. In a breakfast session, for instance, U.S. Trust President Keith Banks, whose firm manages about $200 billion in assets for ultrawealthy people, predicted an imminent boom in mergers and acquisitions. Companies are under pressure from shareholders and directors to expand their revenues, he told me after the session, and can’t grow fast enough organically. With almost $1.45 trillion sitting in corporate treasuries, he said, bottom lines are strong, but with growth in the United States stuck at about 3 percent, top lines are still anemic. So in Banks’s view, companies are going to turn to expansion through acquisition. Read more…
Ideas. You can’t do anything without one.
Luckily, you don’t need to have any of your own to succeed since ideas spread faster than the common cold (though often with similar pain and discomfort). The Aspen Ideas Festival, however, strives to make idea exploration less painful; it is dedicated to providing a neutral and balanced venue for “dialogue and exchange of ideas.”
Now in its ninth year, the Aspen Ideas Festival is presented by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic and held in Aspen, Colo. Thomson Reuters’ Alison Frankel will be providing ongoing coverage on her blog . In her first installment, which covers Katie Couric’s interview with data-guru Nate Silver, she wrote that the festival is “where political, business and art bigwigs (including lawyers such as Robert Bennett of Williams & Connolly and Robert Gruendel of DLA Piper) gather … to talk about the big ideas of the day.”
This year’s event includes program tracks on the future of America, television, energy and transportation, as well as the economy, Middle East, health, design, space exploration, and citizen artists. The 2013 festival is divided into two four-day session, June 26 to 29 and June 29 to July 2.
To learn more about the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, click here. To follow Frankel’s coverage, check out her blog and click on one of the many following options.