"Guarantee" Your Effort: Key Strategies That Make Clients Want to Use Your Firm

Published January 2010

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Most clients realize that law firms and lawyers cannot guarantee a result. To do so comes under Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1's prohibition of false or misleading communication. The American Bar Association's commentary says this includes “lead[ing] a reasonable person to form an unjustified expectation” about results. However, lawyers and law firms can guarantee a level of effort, which does not violate the code because it deals with factors within the lawyer's control.

That kind of effort goes to the heart of what even sophisticated clients want, as symbolized by the Association of Corporate Counsel's (ACC) Value Challenge. Its goal, in the ACC's words, is to align law firms with what corporate clients want and need: value-driven, high-quality legal services that deliver solutions for a reasonable cost and develop lawyers as counselors and professional partners. A service guarantee reinforces that a firm is committed to such performance and reduces clients' feelings of risk, so that they feel comfortable moving ahead with an engagement.

The legal administrator can play a key role in three important strategies through which a firm can guarantee the kind of professional effort that all clients want and expect: developing budgets, proposing alternative billing approaches and setting service standards.

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