Many lawyers are reluctant to discuss money with clients upfront. I know when I practiced, it was a topic I would shy away from as much as possible.  But, in this day and age, that is less of an option. Clients are more demanding regarding what they will be charged.

Bob Denney has an article on Attorney at Work that talks about what you should do to assure that you get the fee you deserve. He states that most “fee challenges occur with either fixed or hourly arrangements…” With either arrangement, there is less likely to be challenges, if the law firm approaches client engagements utilizing legal project management (LPM) techniques.  What struck me about Denney’s article was how closely his suggestions come to the principles that I and my colleagues over at LegalBizDev offer as part of LPM training.  Accordingly, I have included LPM terms in brackets following Denney’s suggestions on how to avoid fee challenges:

  • Define the Desired Result [LPM: draft a Statement of Work (SOW) that includes the specific work to be done, what is not covered, and what client hopes to have achieved];
  • Determine the Fee Expectations [LPM: After identifying work tasks and budgeting for each, arrive at budget for the legal project];
  • Define the Steps Involved [LPM: create a work breakdown structure (WBS) to include each task and subtask and timeline for each];
  • Quote the Fee [LPM: plan and manage the budget for each aspect of the project, and discuss with client]; and
  • If Challenged, Never Cut the Fee [LPM: review all of the above with the client, and if questioned, explain more fully the SOW, WBS and reasoning behind the budget].

Of course, there is a lot more to LPM than just talking about fees, but it is an important part. To read more about LPM, visit and see how it can help your marketing efforts, as well as your bottom line.

  • The budget discussion should happen early.
    Without an understanding of whether or not a prospective client can afford you, wastes everyone’s time and money.
    You don’t want to find out when you’re presenting your proposal that your range and the client’s range are not even close.

  • You are absolutely correct, Chris. But, you can’t talk budget until you have agreed upon a SOW and done a WBS, as well as created a budget based on tasks, resources and schedule.