General Counsel To Lawyers: Do You Understand AFAs?Earlier this week, I recapped one component of the General Counsel Panel at this year’s LSSO RainDance conference I attended. It focused on a request these General Counsel had, which was for lawyers to “know our business.”

Another theme that surfaced had to do with AFAs, or Alternative Fee Arrangements, often called Value Billing and a few other names depending on how you feel about them, or how they are executed.

They are one of the primary topics of interest these days among law firm leaders, including lawyers, legal marketers and others in executive management, not to mention those clients on the receiving end of these proposed arrangements.


As this GC panel discussed AFAs, it became obvious there can sometimes be a difference between a lawyer offering such an arrangement and the lawyer’s knowledge about what this truly means.

As you can see below, I Tweeted during the conference about this challenge as the GC was discussing it:

[By the way, these are active Tweets I am embedding, which means you can reply, ReTweet or Follow just by clicking in the Tweet below.]


What does this mean? One GC on the panel made it clear he had been in at least one situation where an attorney came in to pitch work to him and, at some point in the discussion, the GC was asked if he was interested in, and willing to discuss, alternative fee arrangements or billing. The GC said “yes,” and the lawyer just stared at him, not sure how to proceed.

He said:

“We just stared at each other!”

It is obvious AFAs aren’t going away. Clients aren’t always happy with hourly billing because of the unpredictability, which leaves too much to chance based on who is working on the matter, how long it takes and other variables that are not necessarily anticipated at the beginning. One GC expressed his belief that hourly billing will never go away, and that alternative arrangements will definitely be a part of the ongoing fabric of the attorney-client relationship going forward.


We are seeing many creative arrangements that some consider a bit “out there,” but that are being received positively by clients. During one session at LSSO, presenter Susan Saltonstall Duncan, President of RainMaking Oasis, discussed an oft-cited example of a law firm thinking outside the [pricing] box.

Patrick Lamb’s firm, Valorem Law, is actually adding a Value Adjustment Line to their invoices that allows the client to decide whether it wants to adjust the agreed-upon fee initially discussed. To many firms, this seems sheer lunacy, but it has gone beyond that for Pat and his clients.

Pat’s firm discusses this practice openly on their website. You can read more about it here, but the bottom line message is this:

“On each bill, we include our agreed upon fee.  We also provide you a space to make any adjustment you feel is needed. It really is that simple.

Why do we do this?  To demonstrate our unwavering commitment to client service, and to show you that whatever fee arrangement you have chosen, we have an economic incentive to consistently put forth our best effort.

Ask the other law firms you use if they are confident enough to let you adjust their fees each month.”

As you travel down this path of incorporating alternative fee billing into the business of your firm, keep in mind that value-billing doesn’t necessarily mean you make more money. It means you are providing an alternative to the formulaic, standard, unpredictable, often-irritating hourly method of billing that firms have used for decades.


The end goal is to provide an arrangement that works for both firm and client, but mostly for the client. If you have their budget and their goals in mind, you can end up with a billing arrangement that creates client loyalty. Don’t ever forget that this is about the client, not about you. Yes, you have to be profitable to survive, but you also have to have happy, satisfied clients or you’ll never be profitable.

I also suggest you watch the long-term results of the AFA you are proposing to make sure you are true to the original intent of the “new” arrangement. Don’t do what my friend, ILN’s Director of Global Relationship Management, Lindsay Griffiths, reported hearing about at the Legal Marketing Association’s P3 (Pricing, Process Improvement and Project Management) Conference today in Chicago.


If you plan on raising your rates during the length of the agreement with your client, make sure you honor the amount of the discount you have promised. If a client discovers what goes on behind the scenes, and realizes their “special” arrangement isn’t so special at all, you may do more harm than good.

Talk about not inspiring client loyalty!

As another friend, Legal Lean Sigma Institute Founder and JD, Catherine MacDonagh, Tweeted today at the P3 conference:


It’s time to get serious. Your clients are aware firms are willing to get creative about billing, so don’t be left out. Yes, like Tim Corcoran, or @tcorcoran, was quoted as saying above, you might get it wrong before you get it right.

The most important thing you can do to get it right is to involve your clients in the discussion. Be a bit vulnerable. Ask them about their budgets. Ask them what makes this work for them. Understand what went into handling these matters before. Start learning now before it’s too late.

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General Counsel: “Lawyers, Know My Business”

June 11, 2014

Even though the rapid-fire GC Panel at last week’s LSSO Raindance Conference was filled with pages full of suggestions (some of the one-liners were priceless), there were a few recurring themes I can’t get out of my head.
We’ll start with just one of those themes today, but I will tackle more in the coming days.
If [...]

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Your LinkedIn Newsfeed: You Need To Choose What You Want To See

May 15, 2014

Remember when you first discovered that Facebook started deciding what you would see in your Newsfeed? Well, it is now happening on LinkedIn, too. You need to check your settings on a regular basis because the LinkedIn default might not be what you would like to see.
Take [...]

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Content Marketing: Can It Be Done In Your Spare Time?

April 21, 2014

There’s a lot of talk these days about Content, Content Marketing and Content Strategy, isn’t there? You’re busy, so it’s easy to ignore the formality of it. You write what you can, when you can, about what you know.
Isn’t it enough that you are squirreling away enough time now [...]

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Who Said That? How To Live Tweet A Conference.

April 11, 2014

I received a blog post titled Stealing Ideas and Social Media via email this morning from Randall Craig, one of our presenters last week at the LMA, or Legal Marketing Association, annual conference. Randall spoke on Social Media, a topic very much on the minds of marketers and communicators everywhere.

Randall started a good discussion when [...]

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#LMA14: Why Are We Here?

April 2, 2014

I arrived in Orlando Monday for the LMA, or Legal Marketing Association, board of directors meeting and international conference. Over 1100 of us are in the midst of arriving for our 3-day conference. Am I excited? You bet.Pre-conference programs start today, followed by the opening reception this evening, as well as numerous LMA new member, [...]

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#LMA14: I’m Really Looking Forward To It!

March 27, 2014

I’m really looking forward to next week!
Yes, I will miss my beyond-words-adorable Yellow Lab puppies, Mike and Nick, more than I can say, but I know they are in great hands here at home with my husband, John. Oh, yes, I will miss him too, of course!
But this is the time of year that I [...]

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Social Media: Should I Accept All Connection and Friend Requests?

March 21, 2014

These questions and concerns come up often:I just want to be connected to my family and close friends on Facebook.​Should I accept a request from this person I don’t really know on LinkedIn? I have no idea who this person is. Should I Circle him on Google+?They just keep following me on Twitter. Why would [...]

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LinkedIn Groups: Be S.M.A.R.T.

March 18, 2014

LINKEDIN GROUPS…LOVE ‘EM OR HATE ‘EM ​There is a lot of discussion about whether or not LinkedIn groups are fertile networking grounds. With 2.1 million groups, and 8,000 new ones being created every week, there is certainly opportunity in our midst, isn’t there? Even though posting behavior in some groups is a bit out of control, there [...]

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Social Media Etiquette: Did You Really Need To Say That?

February 28, 2014

Because of a blog post that Samantha Collier wrote yesterday, I became aware of an unfortunate situation that took place on LinkedIn.
The goal of my post today is to leave you with lessons learned, which you will find below, but it might help for you to have a little background first.

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12 Twitter Tips For Lawyers

January 28, 2014

[A version of this post was originally published on the Legal Marketing Association website, and has now been updated here for your viewing pleasure...I hope.]
Say THAT 10 times real fast! Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Had I told you five years ago that I had a tool that would allow you to:

Listen to your clients
Observe [...]

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Are LinkedIn Groups Out Of Control?

January 23, 2014

Many LinkedIn groups are out of control. Group members have discovered they can spam the group and get away with it. Many group admins are not doing a good job managing their groups.
I’m not talking about the occasional post that has a link to content that members of the group [...]

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LinkedIn Announces New Showcase Pages: Great For Law Firms

November 20, 2013

Yesterday, LinkedIn announced the addition of “Showcase Pages,” which are subsets of Company Pages. Read on as I discuss how this has great utility for law firms.
LinkedIn tells us that:
“Showcase Pages are dedicated pages that allow companies to highlight different aspects of their business and build relationships with the right community. Whether [...]

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Law Firms: When Making Announcements, Think Outside The Box

October 3, 2013

Over on PR News, there’s a very interesting post about Amazon distributing a recent press release about the Kindle Fire via 14 Tweets.
Each Tweet plugged a different aspect of the new Kindle Fire, and appears to be a summary of the release they distributed via their website and Business Wire.
Each Tweet featured the hashtagged-term, #firehdx, which [...]

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What Is Inbound Marketing, & Why Is It Important For Lawyers & Law Firms?

October 2, 2013

You can’t read too much about marketing these days without tripping on the common phrase Inbound Marketing.
It is an industry buzzword that serves to differentiate current, digitally-based marketing practices from traditional ones.
This means we are trying to attract interested people to us by creating and distributing content in the marketplace so that [...]

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Make Fun Of #Hashtags All You Want, But Google Just Got Serious

September 26, 2013

Yesterday, Kevin Mullett, Online Visibility Expert (and really smart guy), shared the news on LinkedIn that Google is now making hashtags searchable.
I know. I know. You’re thinking….
“Yawn, Yawn, they’ve been searchable, Nancy.”
Not so fast. Stick with me here for a minute. This is different.
Zaheed Sabur, Software Engineer with Google in Zurich, Switzerland, announced the change [...]

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Get Them Talking, Then Get Called To The Table

September 25, 2013

I just finished listening to a Legal Lunch and Learn webinar about Content Marketing and LinkedIn, featuring one of my favorite people of all time, Adrian Lurssen, Co-Founder of JD Supra, along with Peggy Heffner of Dechert LLP, and Patrick Baynes of PeopleLinx.
I will listen to anything and everything Adrian has to say, not only because [...]

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Marketing Revolution or Evolution?

September 24, 2013

Marketing: Past, Present & Future
I just read an article on LinkedIn Today from Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group, and author of What’s the Future of Business. The article, The Future of Marketing is not about Marketing…It’s about YOU!, is about the state of marketing and communications in the past, present and future.
What really caught my attention is [...]

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Firm Leaders: Are You Social?

September 23, 2013

Hootsuite, the Social Media management tool, recently published a post by Shawn Neumann, President and Founder of the web agency Domain7, and a contributor to the HootSource Blog. It was called The Social Executive: Are You A Social CEO?
Shawn writes that when he talks to other CEOs and executives, he finds fear and reluctance in [...]

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Social Media: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

September 17, 2013

If one of the goals in your Marketing and Business Development Plan is to grow your practice, then it follows that you would then identify the strategies to accomplish that.
Typically, it’s broken down like this:

Goal: What I want or need to accomplish.
Strategy: How I intend to accomplish it.

Two strategies to accomplish that [...]

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It’s Official: Twitter Files For IPO.

September 13, 2013

One of the worst-kept secrets in Social Media is coming true. Twitter has filed for IPO.
Heck, I even swapped out my branded purple headlines in honor of the big announcement. I don’t do that for just anyone, you know.
It’s exciting to watch, and to read all of the buzz in the trades about what [...]

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Lawyers: Content, The Digital Breadcrumbs You Need To Spread

September 12, 2013

In the legal profession, we tend to discuss Business Development a lot. It’s important.
It is, in its simplest terms, the process of developing new business, including the many steps that must be taken to attract the interest of potential clients, nurturing the interest they might have in us, developing a relationship with them along the [...]

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Lawyers: Stop Hiding. You Have To Market Your Marketing.

September 4, 2013

While The Rest of the World Was Advertising
I have worked with lawyers since 1997. Many of you are pretty conservative when it comes to marketing.
Part of this originates with the fact that lawyer advertising, as you know, wasn’t technically allowed before 1977.
When the rest of the world was cutting its advertising teeth decades prior to [...]

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Social Media Manners: Are You Talking To Me?!

September 3, 2013

Have you ever been at an event, talking to someone who keeps looking over your shoulder while you’re talking, wondering who’s coming in the room next, who they must see, who might be more important than you?
Me, too.
How does that makes you feel?

That you’re less important?
As [...]

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C’mon! It’s Time To Put On Your Big Kid Pants Already!

August 23, 2013

Marketing Isn’t Always Easy
I know. I really do. I wasn’t born yesterday, and I didn’t just jump off the turnip truck.
You’re just too busy to do this marketing stuff. That’s why you have “people.” They do it for you, right? I understand.
Oh, you don’t have people and you don’t have time? Great, now it’s really [...]

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Goals, Bright Shiny Objects or Competitors?

August 15, 2013

Let’s face it. Many of us are easily distracted by the next bright, shiny object that is flashed before our faces that holds promise for our practice.

We see a new networking event that promises to expose us to 100 General Counsel all at once!
We are presented with an opportunity to put our name in the [...]

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Content Isn’t King. It’s Emperor Of The Universe.

July 31, 2013

Yesterday, I attended a webinar called “Beers, Blogs and Brands: A Comprehensive Approach To Law Firm Marketing,” sponsored by My Case, provider of web-based legal practice management software.
Sam Glover, lawyer, blogger and founder of Lawyerist, the law practice blog, was the guest presenter, and covered a lot of territory in an hour.
Sam broke his presentation down [...]

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Lawyers: How To Beat Your Competition In The Content Sharing Game

July 11, 2013

A question was recently posted on one of the legal marketing forums I belong to, asking how attorneys can shorten the time-frame between deciding they want to post timely content in response to something going on in the world or in their practice area, and the seemingly endless need for wordsmithing and committee approval [...]

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Lawyers: Content Marketing Is Your Digital Handshake

June 18, 2013


Remember the old days when advertising used to be the only way you could be certain your message was being communicated properly? I helped buy tens of thousands of dollars of TV, radio and billboards every year, and sometimes every month, when I was with Time Warner because it made the phones ring.
You could [...]

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Without Building Relationships, This Is All A Waste.

June 11, 2013


As part of a discussion taking place in a private Facebook group I’m in for members of a course taught by Carrie Wilkerson and Paul Evans, [...]

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