September 2, 2011  nº 1,086 -  Vol. 9


"I'll say this for adversity: people seem to be able to stand it, and that's more than I can say for prosperity."

Kin Hubbard

In today's Law Firm Marketing, How to charge more than competitors and attract better clients.

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  • Top News

US 'to sue a dozen banks over housing bubble mortgages'

The US is planning to sue more than a dozen major banks for misrepresenting the quality of mortgages they sold during the housing bubble, the New York Times reports. The Federal Housing Finance Agency will argue that the banks should have known the securities were not sound. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs are to face action, the newspaper quotes sources as saying. The suits could be filed as early as Friday; they follow subpoenas the finance agency issued to banks last year. The Federal Housing Finance Agency - which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - blames the banks for failing to perform adequate checks on the quality of mortgage securities they sold on to investors before the financial crisis in 2008. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost more than $30bn, partly because of the deals, and had to be bailed out by the government.  This is the latest of a number of lawsuits against financial institutions who were involved in the practice of issuing mortgage-backed securities. However, some executives say the losses were made because of the wider economic downturn.

Goldman agrees to halt mortgage robo-signing

Goldman Sachs' mortgage subsidiary agreed to stop many of its controversial mortgage-related practices, including robo-signing mortgage paperwork. And the Federal Reserve announced action against Goldman to address a pattern of misconduct and negligence in how the firm handled mortgage loans and foreclosures via the subsidiary.

Europe committed crimes during counter-terrorism efforts

The COE - Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg on Thursday accused European governments of numerous human rights violations during counter-terrorism efforts over the past 10 years. Hammarberg said that many European countries began helping the US with secret counter-terrorism measures after the 9/11 attacks. Those measures allegedly included rendition of suspects with the cooperation of local police and the US CIA - Central Intelligence Agency, detention in covert facilities and interrogation involving torture. The efforts bypassed traditional judicial systems in European nations.

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  • Crumbs

1 - U.S. is set to sue a dozen big banks over mortgages - click here.

2 - SAP won't have to pay Oracle $1.3bn after all - click here.

3 - Youngest London rioter – boy aged 11 – given youth rehabilitation order - click here.

4 - Sisters face charges over hospital scam - click here.

5 - Bride stole £170,000 from her boss for lavish dream wedding - click here.

6 - Sarkozy's office denies report of Bettencourt cash - click here.

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  • Law Firm Marketing

How to charge more than competitors and attract better clients 

by Trey Ryder

Never compete on low price -- for many reasons:  

1.  You undermine your credibility because qualified prospects wonder why you charge less than other lawyers.  After all, if you're really good at what you do, prospects expect you to charge more than competitors.

2.  You attract prospects who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.  Prospects who focus mainly on price are always looking to save a buck.  To them, relationships mean little.  Whoever offers the lowest price "wins" them as a client.  Then, in the future, if they discover a lawyer who charges less than you, they move on.  Clients who are loyal to the dollar are never loyal to you!

3.  You'll find it nearly impossible to attract the number of new clients you want.  First, today's ultra-competitive marketplace makes it hard to attract a high volume of clients.  And even if you succeed in gaining the number of clients you want, in most cases, your marketing costs will exceed the profit you can earn from those clients.

When you charge a high fee, you're in a stronger marketing position, because 

  • It's easier to justify why you charge so much than to explain why you charge so little.

  • You're not striving for volume, so you can provide each client with a high level of personal service.

  • You can afford to invest money in a powerful, effective, targeted marketing program.

One reason prospects often focus on fees is because they're a common shortcut people use to evaluate quality.  Prospects conclude, "Surely, the lawyer who charges $350 per hour is more skilled than the lawyer who charges only $150 per hour."

To support a fee higher than other lawyers, explain your value in terms of the following:

Results:  Discuss clients you have represented who have similar problems.  Explain what you did for each client -- and the result you achieved.  Discuss your innovative approach to solving problems and how you often get better results than lawyers who use traditional methods.  Discuss how your reputation works to your client's advantage.  Emphasize that your clients come back time and again because they are highly pleased with the results.

Qualifications:  Discuss the number of years you've practiced law and the depth of your experience.  Explain your areas of specialization and your unusual or unique skills.  Emphasize that you limit your practice to specific areas and, as a result, have developed a high level of expertise from which your clients benefit.  Discuss how you keep your knowledge current through memberships in professional groups and bar sections, as well as continuing education.  Emphasize the many courts in which you're admitted to practice.  And if you have been on the other side -- such as an insurance defense attorney who is now a plaintiff's lawyer -- explain how this has further enhanced your knowledge and experience.

Services:  Discuss how few clients you accept -- and how this allows you to focus more time and attention on each client as an individual.  Explain how accessible you are and how promptly you respond to your clients' requests.  Discuss services you provide that are usually not offered by other lawyers.  Explain your fees and how you bill.  Point out that while many lawyers charge for every photocopy, your fee includes (some level of) office overhead.

Convenience:  Discuss your office's location in the city, the parking spaces reserved exclusively for your clients, and your easy access within the building.  Or, discuss how you work with clients by email and telephone for everyone's benefit.

Third-Party Credibility:  Offer client comments in the form of testimonials and letters of recommendation.  (Not all bar associations allow the use of testimonials, so check your rules of professional conduct.)  Offer references whom prospects can contact for more information.  Show copies of published articles you've written.

The more information you provide, the more your prospect values your services.  Also, the more reasons your prospect has to choose you, not knowing whether other lawyers can match your results, qualifications and services.

Next, in addition to providing positive reasons to choose you, emphasize the risk of hiring an inexperienced lawyer.

Emphasize that your prospect needs a lawyer who will do a thorough job and not cut corners.  Emphasize that your prospect needs a highly skilled lawyer to handle this delicate, technical or complex matter.  Emphasize that your prospect needs a lawyer who has in-depth experience so nothing is overlooked.  Emphasize that your prospect needs a lawyer who has special training in this area of law.  Emphasize that your prospect needs a service-oriented lawyer who is accessible and responds quickly.  

When faced with a question about why another lawyer charges less than you:

1.  Emphasize the First Law of Business Economics:  The person who charges less must deliver less -- or he'll go broke.

2.  Emphasize that in today's marketplace, at best, you get what you pay for.  Sadly, many clients get much less.

3.  Emphasize that a low fee is an obvious sign of weakness -- because if the lawyer had even a moderate level of knowledge, skill and experience, he would charge more.

4.  Emphasize that when the stakes are high, the cheapest lawyer, in the long run, often proves to be the most expensive.

5.  Emphasize that you don't know (or can't be sure) what the other lawyer offers.  And, since he charges less than you, it's logical to conclude that the other lawyer offers less.  It could be less knowledge, less experience, less skill, less service.  Is it worth the risk to find out?

6.  Then, with a question in your voice, add:  "I wonder what he's leaving out."  With those six words, you emphasize doubt, arouse suspicion, and increase skepticism.  And you do this legitimately because neither you nor your prospect knows what criteria the other lawyer uses to establish his value.

Prospects want a clear picture of what they get when they hire you.  The more specific you are about your knowledge -- skill -- experience -- qualifications -- results -- services -- and anything else your prospects view as important, the more value they place on your services and the higher fees they're willing to pay.

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© Trey Ryder

FREE LAWYER MARKETING ALERT:  If you'd like to receive Trey Ryder's weekly Lawyer Marketing Alert, send an e-mail to Trey@TreyRyder.com. Write "Subscribe LMA" in the subject line and write your name and e-mail address in the body of the message.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Expropiación

El presidente venezolano pidió acelerar la toma de tierras de la unidad local de la cartonera irlandesa Smurfit Kappa, en un nuevo capítulo del proceso de nacionalizaciones en ese país. En marzo del 2009, Venezuela expropió una finca de 1.500 hectáreas de Smurfit y acusó a la firma de dañar el medioambiente.

Telefónica

La española Telefónica dijo que defenderá las tarifas que piensa cobrar en Costa Rica por servicios de interconexión, pese a la queja por parte de su rival mexicana América Móvil, que sostiene son artificialmente un servicio a bajo costo. América Móvil, controlada por el magnate Carlos Slim, denunció un acuerdo tarifario entre Telefónica y el estatal Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad representa una práctica comercial indebida.

Nulidad

Un fiscal de Uruguay pidió anular el millonario proyecto de Montes del Plata para levantar una planta de celulosa, alegando que la mayor inversión extranjera en la historia del país conlleva peligros para el medio ambiente. Montes del Plata, una sociedad de la sueco-finlandesa Stora Enso y la chilena Arauco, a su vez parte del conglomerado Empresas Copec, ya inició las obras de instalación de su planta industrial a unos 200 km al oeste de Montevideo, el proyecto prevé una inversiones de US$ 1.900 mlls. (Presione aquí)

  • Brief News

Libya interim leaders vow tolerance and respect for law

Libya's new interim leaders have assured world leaders they will build a society full of tolerance and respect for the rule of law. Speaking at a Paris meeting, NTC - National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil promised a new constitution and elections within 18 months. Sarkozy said air strikes would go on as long as ex-leader Col Gaddafi was a threat.

DOJ files antitrust suit to block AT&T, T-Mobile merger

The US DOJ - Department of Justice on Wednesday filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block the proposed $39bn acquisition of cellular carrier T-Mobile USA by telecom giant AT&T. The agency filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia and seeks to prevent AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile from parent company Deutsche Telekom AG. Citing traditional antitrust concerns, DOJ claims that the merger of two of the top four domestic mobile carriers would result in higher prices, fewer choices and poorer quality of services for consumers.

When a bankruptcy 'event' doesn't mean bankruptcy

In finance and law, bankruptcy is understood to mean a process for resolving financial distress, like those under the United States Bankruptcy Code or the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada. State law assignments for the benefit of creditors could also been seen as a bankruptcy process under this definition. In common parlance, bankruptcy is often used more casually, to mean something like broke or insolvent. Which version, then, would you expect would apply to a bankruptcy trigger in a credit default swaps contract?

Section 4.2 of the 2003 International Swaps and Derivatives Association's credit derivatives definition lists seven categories that could set off a bankruptcy credit event and thus a payout from a protection seller. There is also an eighth category that picks up any event that is analogous to the first seven. The precise language is set forth in the document below. Take a close look at Part (b) of Section 4.2, which provides that “Bankruptcy means a Reference Entity . . . becomes insolvent or is unable to pay its debtors or fails or admits in writing in a judicial, regulatory or administrative proceeding or filing its inability generally to pay its debts as they come due.” Not exactly polished English grammar, but corporate lawyers are rarely rewarded for that. Now, one credit default swap protection buyer wants to argue that the phrase "becomes insolvent" means that a bankruptcy credit event involves bankruptcy in the colloquial sense of the work. The issue involves Aurelius Capital Management, no novices in the world of distressed debt world, which, one can surmise, holds lots of credit default swaps that reference the Texas Competitive Electric Holdings Company.

Formerly bankrupt companies become M&A targets

Once-bankrupt media, chemical and technology companies that ended up in the hands of hedge funds and buyout shops are expected to come to market soon. Distressed debt investors such as Paulson & Co, Avenue Capital and Silver Point Capital that took control of bankrupt companies during the financial crisis are looking to cash in on their investments as the economy recovers. As a result, once-bankrupt companies in sectors such as auto parts, media, chemicals and technology that ended up in the hands of hedge funds and buyout shops are expected to come to the market soon.

Gaza ship raid excessive but blockade legal

A UN report says Israel used "excessive force" in its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year, but said the naval blockade was legal. The UN also found that Israeli commandos were met with "organized and violent resistance" when they boarded the Mavi Marmara.The Turkish-flagged ship was part of a convoy which aimed to break Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Brazil makes surprise rate cut

Brazil's central bank unexpectedly cuts its key interest rate to 12% from 12.5%, citing a deterioration in the global economic outlook.

Liberia constitutional amendments rejected in national referendum

Liberia's NEC - National Election Commission on Wednesday announced that all four proposed amendments to the Republic's constitution were voted down in last week's national referendum. One defeated proposal was to move back the national election date from the first Tuesday in October to the first Tuesday in November, pushing the election out of the rainy season, which might increase voter turnout, and closer to the January presidential inauguration, which would help to alleviate security concerns. Another change, also rejected, called for a simple majority for victory in local and legislative polls, which aimed to elect officials in a single round, doing away with expensive run-off elections. Also defeated was the proposed amendment to raise the Liberian Supreme Court judge retirement age from 70 to 75. The most controversial proposal would have lowered the residency requirement for presidential candidates from 10 years to five. Predictions are that this change would open up the field to more opposition party candidates and disqualify others, cumulatively increasing the chance for reelection for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 

9th Circuit asked to vacate 'Don't Ask' judgment

Obama administration lawyers will ask a federal appeals court to vacate a judgment declaring "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional.

Guatemala STD tests 'may have infected 2,500'

The extent of US medical experiments in Guatemala on STDs during the 1940s is greater than previously thought. The number of infected people could be as high as 2,500, says the president of the Medical Association of Guatemala. According to a US report released on Monday, 1,300 Guatemalans were infected without their knowledge to study the effects of penicillin. US scientists knew they were violating ethical rules, the report found.

Judge rejects Oracle $1.3bn verdict against SAP

A federal judge found that Oracle had proven actual damages of only $272m and called for a new trial unless Oracle agreed to accept that amount. In a ruling released on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton called the $1.3bn copyright infringement verdict against SAP "grossly excessive."

  • Daily Press Review

Gaddafi vows to carry on fighting
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Al-Sadr calls for Iraqis to rise up against gov't
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Gaddafi said to be in desert town
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Muslim workers at Israel's Hebrew University forced to work on Ramadan
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Gaddafi defiant as Libyan rebels meet with world powers
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Libya leaders vow respect for law
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Purported Gadhafi message warns of 'long, drawn-out war'
CNN International, London, England

Great white shark goes on display
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Ex-soldiers to teach deprived children at military-style 'free school', says Army captain
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Fright Night: Former Doctor Who David Tennant brings welcome bite to a vampire movie
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Libya: Sarkozy pledges ongoing support at summit
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

DIPLOMACY: World pledges support for Libya's interim leadership
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

World powers, new Libya leaders to map out rebuilding
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Syrian legal chief quits regime over death toll
Independent The, London, England

Exxon steals BP's Arctic thunder
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Ai Weiwei speaks of 'constant nightmare' in first article since detention by Chinese authorities
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Pippa Middleton picks up a parking ticket
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

FM: Dems need to explain 'secret talks'
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

Breach has exposed unredacted US cables: WikiLeaks
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

GNP Wants to Help Out Big Charity Donors in Tough Times
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Clinton urges world to back interim Libyan authority
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Man behind bars after raping daughter
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Noda oversaw biggest yen intervention since 2004
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Moroccan mystery death inquest
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Gold retreats as dollar firms
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Australia PM vows not to quit amid leadership speculation
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

The grandpa from hell
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

China targets hazardous waste dumping, stockpiles
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Hunan Valin, ArcelorMittal to step up China tie-up
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Top general supports $1B savings plan
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

U.S. firms profited from CIA rendition flights, documents show
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Australia's Credit Downgrade Scare in 2009
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

CLIMATE CHANGE: Brazilian Women Rise Above the Waters
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Wall Street falls on payroll fears; Netflix off late
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Japan PM picks relatively unknown finance minister
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Drugs found in bus driver's duffel bag, police say
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Libya leaders vow respect for law
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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