Upfront pricing: The new age of legal fees

The legal fraternity is infamous for being costly, with lawyers traditionally charging clients for every email and phone call undertaken to resolve a matter. Hourly rates are the norm but, in an age where the client is sophisticated and measured by its external legal spend, law firms must be able to offer transparency and certainty. This is according to Nikita Lalla, Chief Executive at LNP Attorneys and award-winning legal specialist. 

Lalla is well regarded for her cradle to conclusion expertise in infrastructure, energy and natural resource projects. With a successful history working on local and international projects, she believes that the journey to being client-centric starts with pricing. “Hourly billing and capped fees are common but neither is client-friendly.  Capped fees appear attractive but are merely an estimate – if the hours exceed the cap provided these are an additional charge.  In both scenarios the risks lie with the client. Lawyers, especially those working with clients on large projects, need to understand the importance of budgeting for these kinds of projects,” explains Lalla.

The common practice of hourly billing presents some clear concerns. Firstly, it incentivises inefficiencies and over-populating a matter. “It is entirely too subjective,” comments Lalla. “Legal services should be priced on the value it adds, not the time it takes.” Secondly, the hourly fee structure limits lawyers, too, who price themselves based on their time and not their expertise.  Capped fees may result in clients fielding inexperienced attorneys. “Fixed fees were historically applied to commoditised or high-volume matters but with specialised sector expertise and technology even complex matters warrant fixed fees” says Lalla. 

“At LNP Attorneys, we believe that our clients are paying for our expertise and ability. We work collaboratively and cooperatively with our clients to ensure that we provide expert services without the daunting administrative and financial implications of reviewing legal bills every month.”

Additionally, Lalla believes that a legal expert is able to accurately price themselves based on their vast experience and the use of technology. “Lawyers positioning themselves as specialists must have the experience to fully grasp the scope of a project, have meaningful engagements with client and determine the appropriate fixed pricing,” Lalla explains, noting that her firm has been successfully offering fixed fees for three years now. 

Recognised as last years’ African Legal Awards Law Firm of the Year, LNP Attorneys offers quality expert advice at a fixed priced. “Our bottom line really is the bottom line,” concludes Lalla.