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Lawyers: Take Control and Charge What You're Worth!

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Vanessa Ugatti & her book coverA guest blog from Vanessa Ugatti , The True Worth Expert,

There was a time when I believed that all lawyers were really confident, totally sorted people and didn’t have any problems at all.  How wrong could I have been?  Just about now, some of you will be chuckling, I expect.

Then I discovered this was an entirely erroneous belief and that there were just as many of you who were not confident as those of you who are, when it comes to the business aspect of your work and in particular, charging.

Academic ability, knowledge and even professional experience are one thing (well three actually); however, emotional intelligence, self-belief and confidence are completely different and yet equally critical to your success.

During your studies, you learnt about the law and no doubt that was plenty to keep you fully occupied; on the other hand, unless you sought additional training yourself, you had little or no exposure to business or soft skills, let alone how your mind works.

So it’s hardly surprising you may well lack confidence when it comes to charging.  It’s quite simply a lack of knowledge and self-awareness.  However, just like the law, these are skills which can be learnt and practised. 

If you are like other lawyers I’ve worked with, then charging is a tricky area to handle.  First of all, it’s not an exact science.  Of course, you need to cover overheads and make a decent profit; however, there is so much more to this than meets the eye.  It’s not just how you set your fees, it’s also how you apply them.

Even though you have an hourly rate, the piece of work you are doing may well be better done on a fixed fee basis.  As you are well aware, this in itself can bring up many challenges, not the least of which is estimating how long the job will take in the first place.  I frequently hear that under-estimating occurs as it’s not always easy to know how complex a piece of work may be at the very outset.  You may also be the sort of person who errs on the side of caution in favour of the client, rather than the business. There are other challenges too. 

This brings me right to the crux of the matter.  When it comes to applying your fees, by far the greatest problem is, in fact, your thoughts and emotions.

There I’ve said it.  You may be surprised to hear that you have something like between 50,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day which is an enormous number. Many of them are the same thoughts you’ve had in the past, probably multiple times; the vast majority of these actually come from the unconscious mind. 

You might be thinking so what?  The point is that your unconscious mind is like a gigantic reservoir or computer which stores all your experiences – everything you’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelt – in fact, everything from the day you were born!  Can you imagine the magnitude of such a beast?  And because it’s unconscious, you don’t really know what’s in it!

It’s important to understand that the unconscious mind’s first job is your safety.   This means that you’re hard-wired to be fearful to keep you safe.  It’s a self-preservation mechanism.  Of course, aside what you read in the news, by comparison with our forefathers, we have little to be fearful about when it comes to our physical safety, as we are not normally confronting real physical danger on a daily basis. 

Instead we have created imaginary fears, such as the fear of public speaking, the fear of failure, rejection, success or even the fear of charging what you’re worth.  Because the unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between a real danger and an imaginary one, it behaves in exactly the same way and brings up fear.    This is a knee-jerk reaction which is often not beneficial to your success in business. 

In reality, it’s not so much the thoughts that are the problem; it’s the feelings and the fact that you believe them.  This means that you then take action based on those feelings.  So your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your actions and your actions create your results.  No doubt, you’re already ahead of the game and realise this means that if your thoughts are negative, the results you get are likely to be unfavourable too. 

For example, A client rings up and says:  “Can you just do this or can you just do that….”  Although it’s not part of the original fixed fee quote, your automatic reaction is to say yes and do it – no discussion about fee and so that becomes non-billable time. 

You may also decide not to record that time, since you can’t bill it, and so it just gets lost.  The repercussions are not just financial, they’re emotional too.  The experience of this and the mixture of emotions it causes then gets re-stored in the unconscious mind, to be brought up yet again when you have a similar situation to handle in the future.  And on and on it goes!

I’m sure by now there’ll be some head-nodding going on as you recognise this behaviour in yourself.  Believe me when I tell you that you’re not alone, it’s very common place.  You’re probably also wondering if you’re doomed or whether there is something you can do to change this.

Take heart, there is definitely something you can do.

Here’s a three-step process you can use immediately to start changing your thinking and therefore get different results:

  1. Make a decision to become more aware of how you’re thinking and feeling.
  2. When you recognise that you’re feeling negative in some way, step back from the feeling and ask what is going on?  (You can be pretty sure that you will be in a pattern of thinking which you’ve experienced many times before.)
  3. Challenge the thinking by asking: “Is this really true?”

True Worth book coverOf course, I’ve only just scratched the surface here.  If you found this article useful and interesting and are keen to know more about how you can charge what you’re worth, why not claim your free copy of Vanessa's Amazon bestseller "True Worth".