I am the managing owner of a four attorney estate planning firm in Phoenix. We also have two paralegals, a receptionist, and an office manager. We have always billed our clients by the hour but have been considering switching to a flat rate billing arrangement. I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
I am currently working with quite a few estate planning/elder law firms. The majority of these firms are still using "time bill" billing arrangements. (8 out of 10 firms) A few firms are using flat fee arrangements for estate planning and asset protection matters and "time bill" arrangements for estate administration and other matters.
Few firms that are using flat fee arrangements are realizing effective billing rates even close to their standard "time bill" rates. In some cases I have found effective rates per hour $100 per hour less than their standard "time bill" rates. In some cases the problem is not working effectively or efficiently. In other cases the flat fee price has not been properly set or limits placed on the work that will be done for the flat fee – for example – number or document rewrites, etc.
I believe that more than ever clients are wanting the budgetary certainty that flat fees provide. I think that a flat fee pricing strategy is a good strategy but the scope of work and proper price point must be properly established. A couple of suggestions:
I believe that properly implemented and managed flat fees can be a worthwhile strategy.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC