From time to time clients will fundamentally challenge the “Value” of our services as attorneys. When this happens it is a direct request FROM them to US to respond clearly and firmly, and to help them take the final step to engaging your services.
It has been said that there are only 2 fundamental communications we have as humans;
- An Expression of Love, or
- A Cry for Help
A fee challenge is actually both. They want to LOVE you which is why they are still talking with you instead of just walking away. And they want you to HELP them to feel good about their decision.
The challenge most often comes in an email and often looks like this:
“Dear Mr. Attorney,
While I appreciate your expertise, I think that the actual time it will take for you to use your templates to complete my individual plan will in reality be only a few hours. Add to that the couple of hours that we have spent together and your investment of time is probably only 5 or 6 total hours.
Even if your hourly rate were $500/hr, which I think would be very high, this would result in a fee of $2,500-$3,000, which would seem reasonable. You have quoted me several times that amount and frankly I think this is excessive. I would be happy to consider the planning you are proposing if you would reconsider the fee you are charging in line with my analysis here.
Thank you again for speaking with me.”
– Mr. Challenging Client
Credibility Death Match
This is what I call “The Credibility Death Match“. He is basically saying, what you recommended to me is BS and I want you to admit it. There is only one way to respond without a complete a total loss of respect and likely of the client altogether. You must support your recommendation, your choice in association and your fees 1,000%. Anything less is defeat. REMEMBER, you are being hired to PROTECT their assets, you cannot and should not show weakness.
They want you to be clear, be firm and in reality they do not want you to cut your fees (although they think that is what they really want). What they really want is to test you and see if you are a pushover. If you are, then even if they engage you, you will have a client whom does not respect you and likely will move on or have your planning reviewed by a more certain attorney and in the end move on anyway. This is not a client you want, and they don’t want to be that.
Here is a sample response, written from the perspective of you, the Affiliate Attorney:
Dear Mr. Challenge,
Thanks for expressing yourself and I appreciate your comments. As with any highly specialized profession, the difference in a successful outcome is virtually always based on knowledge, most often acquired through experience.
We discussed 2 distinct areas we could address in your planning. The first is the Estate Planning portion. This is typically accomplished with the use of a Revocable Living Trust (RLT). The key expertise here is guiding you through the various options which are available to you in structuring your estate and of course setting it up to minimize any potential estate taxes. The RLT has become the standard and as long as it is drafted competently, its not too difficult to accomplish the goal. Industry average of the total fees to establish an RLT typically run between $2,500 and $5,000.
The second issue is Asset Protection Planning. This is a much more complicated and subtle area of law because we are balancing competing issues. In order for Asset Protection Planning to ultimately work, we have to effectively limit, or even remove, as much control as possible from you with respect to your assets. This is balanced with your desire to keep all of the control at all times. This delicate balancing can be done in many, many different ways and they are by no means created equally. If done wrong, or inadequately, the planning can completely fail. This could have a catastrophic result.
And it is in this area that the experience becomes so valuable. It is for this reason that as a firm we have chosen to affiliate with the nation’s premier Asset Protection Law Firm, Lodmell & Lodmell. They protect over $4.5 Billion in client assets and have thousands of reference points and years of experience. They are also extremely competitive when it comes to fees. Planning fees nationwide for this type of planning run from $20,000 to well over $100,000. The fees Lodmell & Lodmell charges are extremely reasonable. Through their proprietary approach we are able to offer our clients a truly unique set of tools that have a success rate that is simply outstanding. In fact, no client of Lodmell & Lodmell has ever had a forced extraction from a plan. For us, and our clients this is what is most important.
As you also know, as the expertise becomes more specialized and more critical, the time involved becomes less of a driver of the cost. Clients come from every state specifically to work with Lodmell & Lodmell and to access their expertise, as do hundreds of other attorneys for their clients. Much like patients will travel thousands of miles to have a 3 hour surgery with one specific doctor. You are no longer paying for time, you are paying for expertise in an area in which getting it wrong is unacceptable.
Asset Protection is simply not something, as attorneys, we take lightly. It is very specialized and not cookie cutter at all. The consequences for us, if we get it wrong for a client, are also significant. And it is for these reasons that when it comes to this particular area, we do believe that you benefit greatly by having 2 law firms involved. As to the costs, as is outlined in the fee agreement, your fees for this planning would be the same if you went directly to Lodmell & Lodmell, or through us. So in effect you really are getting the expertise of us both for the same fee.
Finally, regarding the need for Asset Protection itself, we believe it is very important. Whether you choose to implement a plan is a function of how much certainty you desire around your own assets. You are in the top 1% of this country when it comes to assets. Litigation is a fact of life and is becoming more common, not less. Asset Protection provides a real barrier and defense to what you have worked extremely hard to acquire. Clients who work with us want the highest degree of certainty they can get when it comes to holding on to those assets.
I hope this addresses your concerns and I glad you expressed them. I look forward to speaking again soon, and would be happy to schedule another call with Douglass at your convenience.