An attorney approaches you to review a case as a legal nurse consultant. When he hears your fees, he requests you discount your legal nurse consulting fees. He says,
- “I’m a nice guy. You shouldn’t charge me that rate.”
- “Your competition is charging less than that.”
- “If you lower your fees, I will give you a volume of cases.”
- “If you lower your fees, I will share your name with other attorneys.”
The consequences of discounting your legal nurse consulting fees
The stories I hear from legal nurse consultants who lower their fees often have an unhappy ending. It may be the road to the ruin of your business.
One LNC I know is working for $35 an hour for an attorney who promised to share her contact information with others – and did not. Another LNC I know is working at $75 an hour, instead of her usual rate of $110 an hour. This attorney is dominating all of her available time, which is not permitting her to charge at her usual rate to others. I have heard LNCs describe how they reduced their rates because they were afraid the work would go to their competition.
Is lack of confidence an issue?
Your level of self confidence drives how you react to attempts by attorneys to reduce your fees. Are you confident in the value you bring to a case? Are you aware of how much money a plaintiff attorney may make if he wins a case, or a defense attorney gains if he can hold a settlement or verdict to a lower number?
As a legal nurse consultant, the only way you can bill is by the hour. You are not entitled to a percentage of a settlement or verdict. The attorney’s ethical rules strictly prohibit this. If your time is valuable, and your expertise is essential to a case, then you must hold to your prices.
Avoid the race to the bottom
If you lower your price, what prevents your competition from lowering their prices? You will become engaged in a race to the bottom of the pay scale, in which you will lose the race. I recall a man who called me up one day to inquire about rates for summarizing medical records. He said, “I have been getting quotes. The best number I have heard is $60 an hour. Can you do better?” This rate was half of what my company charged at that time. I flatly refused to consider taking on his work at that rate.
Discounting your legal nurse consulting fees sends a signal to the attorney that you are willing to negotiate your rates. You may be asked for other price reductions. You’ve sent a signal that you are flexible – to your detriment. What is the point of being in business if you can’t make money?
To the nurse who is working for $35 an hour, I recommended she increase her rates or ditch the attorney. To the nurse who is working exclusively for an attorney at $75 an hour, I recommended she increase her rates and to expand her marketing to get other clients. The attorney loves her work product; it is unlikely that he will stop using her because of a rate increase.
But this nurse is in an even more dangerous situation. If the attorney drops dead, leaves law, or gets into an accident, her entire income is in jeopardy. The expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” typifies her risk. Take to heart the expression, “Always be marketing.” Don’t rely on one attorney or one firm for your business.
When an attorney approaches you with work and asks that you reduce your fees, the business strengthening approach is to reiterate the value of what you bring to the case. And to say, “no”.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC is president of The Pat Iyer Group. She learned a lot of lessons while running an independent legal nurse consulting business for 28 years, and shares those lessons with members of her coaching academy, at www.LNCAcademyinc.com.