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What If Your Clients Could Determine The Bill? Legal Innovation In Action

Ever heard of Miller Titerle? I hadn’t, but I came across the Vancouver firm’s Winter Update in a thread in LinkedIn’s Alternative Fee Lawyers group. If you want to find out how a firm can innovate and really up its game, spend a few minutes on their website. 

Miller Titerle is a boutique commercial firm that practices law based on principles its people believe in. The firm’s website announces that “[t]hese principles include providing prompt, practical and quality legal advice, tailored to our clients’ need and delivered at a reasonable cost.” So far, nothing too fresh or new. Just about every firm has a similar vision…but wait, there’s more. Really, there is so much more. And the things they’re proposing (I have no reason to suspect the firm won’t implement its plans) will distinguish Miller Titerle from its competitors and ensure its continuing growth and success.

Central to its “grand plans” for 2013: a break from traditional billing. The firm already uses value-based billing mechanisms like fixed & capped fee arrangements. What’s new? When the firm issues a traditional, undiscounted bill for time spent, and the client feels the firm failed to meet its service and value commitments, the client may discount the fee by up to 25%. Yes, up to 25%. 

The catch? There’s always a catch…Clients invoking the discount must pay the revised bill promptly (don’t all clients pay promptly?), complete an evaluation form and participate in a short interview with a partner to figure out what went wrong and what can be improved for the future. 

Miller Titerle’s focus on measuring success from the only perspective that matters—that of the client—is  refreshing. As we’ve said before, it’s a fundamental tenet of Lean Six Sigma that value can only be determined by the customer. 

Understanding how your clients see, receive and value what you do is essential to make this kind of a proposition work. You’ll only know this if you solicit regular feedback. You can’t satisfy every client every time, but with regular feedback you can identify things that clearly annoy and then work to eliminate or at least improve on those. 

However, few clients volunteer negative feedback. They fear the conflict and defensive posturing that so often results. It’s so much easier for them to to vote with their feet and take their business elsewhere.

Miller Titerle seems to get this. They recognize that feedback provides valuable intelligence that must be actively solicited. Assuming the firm acts on what it hears from dissatisfied clients, the news will get around quickly. Law is a referral business. If they follow through, Miller Titerle will see a rise in repeat and new business. A firm that fails to engage its clients in a meaningful dialogue about its performance loses precious opportunities.

But pushing their value proposition isn’t the only thing they’re doing. Miller Titerle also plans to encourage members of the firm to spend up to 10% of their time thinking about innovative ways to improve the firm’s services and add more value for clients. Simply put, the firm wants its people to invest their time—on the firm’s dime—improving procedures and developing new products. 

Increasing efficiency, improving the quality of its clients’ overall experience and delivering quality legal services in new and creative ways will distinguish Miller Titerle from its competition. And it won’t hurt their bottom line, either.

As for Miller Titerle’s standing buyout offer – it’s brilliant. It sends a clear message that it’s OK to grow and change, to aspire to move on. Helping those who have outgrown your organization—or no longer have the spark—to transition out creates a stronger team. People will stay because they want to stay, because they feel they’re adding value and they, in turn, are valued. A happy team is more focused, effective and efficient.

Miller Titerle is a firm I’ll be watching. And if they are your competition, you better be watching too.

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