People use a lot of gasoline. These same people are very familiar with the gasoline pricing structure, which they generally don’t care about or even notice. As a lawyer, use this to your advantage and associate the price of gasoline — a frequent necessity — to the price of legal services, a definite necessity. Here’s how.
First, set your fees in the same way gas stations set their gasoline prices, per gallon and to the tenth of the cent. In other words, the experts are right. Get away from a time-based billing system and use a gallon-based system instead. While it’s still associated with time, paying for legal services by the gallon just sounds a lot better than by the minute. Plus, it seems like you get a lot more.
Let’s say you are a family law lawyer and a potential client wants to know how much you charge for a child custody matter. Just look out the window at the current price of gas and respond “I charge three dollars ninety nine and 9/10 cents per gallon, plus expenses. For regular.” Sounds totally reasonable. Better yet, if a client balks at your rate, explain the cost of gasoline and how it relates to the delivery of legal services.
Clients readily understand that most things in this world are priced based on the amount of fuel it takes to deliver them. When gas prices go up, overall consumer prices go up. What better way to reflect this then to make your fees directly based on a fuel standard? Client still not convinced? Offer a discounted car wash or remind them that you provide full-service legal advice and that the self-service station is down at the courthouse, next to the brightly colored 55-gallon barrels of whoop ass.
Attorneys have been slow to adopt alternative billing forms and the reason is pretty clear: you cannot explain it easily to clients. Using a gallon-based and tenth-of-a-cent approach, however, builds on a consumer’s familiarity, making it easy to charge what is necessary for you to do your work. If the client wants “extra” service and hand-holding, charge a “Plus” or “Mid-Grade” rate, usually ten to twelve cents more per gallon. If the client wants even more personal service, quote a “Premium,” “Super Unleaded,” or “V-Power” rate. Clients will understand your pricing structure and will even forget how much you are charging. After all, you are not just charging your time. You are providing gallons and gallons of good solid advice, worth paying for. Pump away, counsel!