I had an interesting conversation with one of our favorite clients the other day. We have been working for her for many months and she called with a general question about a potential immigration application. She told me not to start any work on the file as she didn’t want to incur any expenses yet, although she knew I would have to charge her for the phone call.
Charge for the phone call?
Over the past three years, we have moved into a flat-rate billing system. We don’t charge for phone calls, emails or meetings. Unless the matter is completely unpredictable or the client requests an hourly rate, our fees are set at the beginning.
We posted all the fees online in February. Since then, we have had exactly:
– Zero clients request hourly rates
– 2 matters we decided to take on at an hourly rate. Those are Federal Court files, with unique legal issues we have not dealt with before so it was impossible to set the rate from the beginning
When I started the flat rate system, I wasn’t sure how it would go – would clients like the flat rate? Would people balk at the costs? Would other lawyers hate me for posting my fees online?
Happily, the flat rates are working out. More predictability for clients means they pay our invoices quickly. The “Our Fees” page on the website has the most hits after the home page. And well, as far as other lawyers go, I guess it really doesn’t matter what they think. The bottom line for me: if I was a client this is what I would prefer. Complete predictability on fees means a better relationship with clients. No awkward phone calls about an unexpectedly high invoice. No hesitation for clients to call us with a question or update.
Now, obviously an area I need to work on is making sure clients understand what flat rate really means. For clients who are used to dealing with many lawyers for various corporate and employment matters, I realize now it can take some getting used to.
So no, there won’t be any charge for the phone call.