February 20, 2015 nº 1,595 - Vol. 13

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."

Ansel Adams

In today's Law Firm Marketing, 11 ways to turn your fee and billing practices into a competitive advantage

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  • Top News

UN SG calls for end to all forms of human exploitation

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for a worldwide end to all forms of human exploitation. The message, released as part of the UN's World Day of Social Justice set for February 20, 2015, calls for a worldwide effort to "not leave behind those who are socially and economically exploited." Begun in 2007, World Day of Social Justice is meant to "support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all." As part of the effort, the International Labour Organization (ILO) convened a panel discussion on Thursday on modern forced labor, human trafficking and worker exploitation. The ILO, a driving force behind the World Day of Social Justice, adopted the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization in 2008, is a specialized UN agency that works to promote worker rights and opportunities, and social welfare in their 185 member nations. The ILO reaffirmed their commitment to fight forced labor in 2014, adopting a Protocol and a Recommendation to supplement the Forced Labour Convention, 1930.

Obama says US 'at war with those perverting Islam'

Obama says the US is "not at war with Islam - we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam". He was speaking to representatives from 60 nations attending a three-day event on extremism that follows attacks in Denmark and France. He said the world had to confront the ideologies that radicalize people. He said “those heading groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda were not religious leaders but terrorists. Associating Islamic State or al-Qaeda with Islam would be buying into the propaganda of those groups, challenging critics who have questioned him for not describing recent attacks as the work of "Islamic radicals". Obama has asked Congress formally to authorize military force against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The US and its partners have carried out air strikes against the group since last year. (Click here)

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  • Crumbs

1 - Stocks and euro soft on Greece deal angst - click here.

2 - HSBC's Swiss Unit Probed by Prosecutor - click here.

3 - Apple wins patent approval for wireless virtual reality headset - click here.

4 - Dealt Setback, Obama Puts Off Immigrant Plan - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Top China official to face prosecution for corruption

Former senior official Su Rong has been expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for corruption and faces prosecution, said the country's top anti-corruption body. Su was a vice-chairman of China's parliamentary advisory body.

Chinese home prices fall for ninth month

The average price of new homes in China's 70 major cities fell 0.4% in January from the month before, marking the ninth consecutive decline. Government data showed that prices in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai also fell more last month than they did in December on an annual basis. China's once red-hot real estate market has been facing headwinds from a slowing economy and oversupply issues. Investors have been turning away from the market and investing in stocks.

Lunar New Year celebrations begin

Countries across Asia begin Lunar New Year celebrations to welcome the year of the sheep, with tens of millions of people on the move in China.

  • Law Firm Marketing

11 ways to turn your fee and billing practices into a competitive advantage
By Trey Ryder

One important purpose of marketing is to show that your services are well worth your fee.

You want prospective clients to conclude that you have such in-depth knowledge, skill, judgment and experience that they would be foolish to hire any lawyer other than you.

Whether someone hires your services boils down to the value/price equation, which says: A prospective client will hire your services as long as he believes that the value he receives from you is (1) greater than the price he pays, and (2) greater than the value he would receive from another lawyer for the same price.

Value is not a fact; it's a perception. If your client thinks he's getting value from you, he is. If he thinks he isn't, he isn't. Truth and fact have nothing to do with value. It's all in your client's mind. How your client perceives value can differ greatly from how you perceive it.

When a client opens your invoice, his value/price radar is at full alert. If he doesn't have a good idea of the amount you're billing, he can do little more than hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

You've heard people talk about near-death experiences, reporting that their lives passed before their eyes. For some clients, opening your invoice is akin to a near-death experience. As your client slits open the envelope, he replays in his mind all the things you have done for him during the latest billing period. As he nears the final number at the bottom of the page, he asks himself one last time, "Is the amount I benefited from my lawyer more or less than the amount I owe?"

You always want your client to feel that the value he receives from you is greater than the price he pays. Part of how your client perceives your value -- and responds to your invoice -- is based on how you bill.

Here are 11 ways to turn your billing policies into a competitive advantage:

WAY #1: When possible, offer your client his choice of fee and billing options. Clients often believe your fee is one area that is completely beyond their control. When you allow clients to choose the way you calculate your fee, they are usually happier and more comfortable with the outcome because they took part in making the decision.

WAY #2: Show your client what your fee could be under the various methods you offer. Then help your client see which method benefits him most. The more you explain your fee and your client's options, the more your client sees that you are trying to help him make the decision that suits him best.

WAY #3: Provide a detailed description of the services you performed by each entry on your invoice. A direct relationship exists between detail and credibility. The more facts you include that describe what you did, the more credibility you give to your invoice. In the alternative, the less information you provide, the less credibility your bill has, which increases your client's skepticism.

WAY #4: Don't charge for everything you do. Your client really likes to see N.C.s on your invoice. They may reflect a quick e-mail response or a quick question you answered on the phone. Whatever task you performed, the N.C. helps balance the figures that appear for the more time-consuming services.

WAY #5: Bill for in-office incidentals only when your client exceeds his monthly allowance. Charging clients for what they believe is routine office overhead always results in bad feelings. Specifically, clients see photocopies as the flag bearers of inflated charges. While many clients won't raise the issue -- for fear of being labeled cheap or unfair -- copies are usually a sore point because nearly everyone knows what photocopies cost.

When your client sees a bill for photocopying, he thinks: At my down-the-street copy place, I can make a self-serve copy for ten cents. Yet my lawyer charges me $1.00 per copy. This is clearly unfair. It's the same complaint people lodge against hospitals. I can buy an aspirin at the store for ten cents. But on my hospital bill the charge for one aspirin is $6.

Here's the greater problem: When your client sees a charge that he thinks is excessive, he can't help but think your other fees and charges could be excessive as well. It's like when a lawyer catches a witness in a lie. No matter how small the lie, it puts that person's credibility in question. If you ordinarily charge for incidentals, try this instead: Set a monthly overhead allowance for each client based on the amount of fees you expect to collect from that client. This allows you to absorb routine overhead up to the maximum you set, without having to foot the bill for excessive costs.

WAY #6: Bill for rapid delivery only when the fast service is at your client's request and not the result of your tardiness. A lawyer once charged me for a Federal Express shipment because I told him I needed the documents in a hurry. The problem was, he had promised the documents to me two weeks earlier and FedEx would not have been necessary had the lawyer finished the work on time. When I brought this to his secretary's attention, she gladly removed the charge.

WAY #7: Bill outside services at their actual cost. I started this years ago and clients regularly mention how much they appreciate it. I tell clients that when they hire me, they have full access to my suppliers and business contacts at my cost. I don't mark up any outside services. Since many marketing and advertising consultants mark up outside services by 100 percent or more, my at-cost policy adds value to my services.

WAY #8: Proofread every bill. Clients expect that you prepare your invoice with the same care and attention that you use to perform legal services. A mistake on your invoice arouses suspicion that you might also make mistakes in their documents. In item #6 above, where my lawyer's delay resulted in FedEx charges on my bill, my lawyer had actually billed me twice for the same FedEx shipment on the same invoice. This lawyer was very smart, but when I saw how little attention he paid to my bill, I could not risk continuing to use his services.

WAY #9: Always discuss fees and charges in advance, before prospects hire you. Fees are always a sensitive issue, even if your client doesn't bring up the subject. Show every prospect that you want to be up-front about fees and how you bill. Start by explaining everything in advance. Give your prospect a written schedule of fees and charges. State everything in a positive, supportive way. Help your prospects see that hiring you is a good business decision. How you charge should be one of your strongest competitive advantages. If you find something about your invoice or billing method that clients don't like or don't understand, change it so clients see how your billing practices work to their benefit.

WAY #10: Always discuss potential problems in advance. If something unforeseen happens -- or causes an unexpected increase in your client's bill -- take a few moments to call and explain it to your client If you can offer your client different ways of handling the matter, make that clear as well. The last place your client wants a surprise is when he opens "the envelope." If you think your client might perceive your invoice in a negative way, call him and discuss it. Explain what you recommend. Ask if your client agrees with your solution, or if he would like you to review other options.

WAY #11: Invite questions about your invoices. Make sure prospects and clients know that you are eager to explain anything on an invoice they don't understand. Admit that you might make a mistake and that you welcome the opportunity to review any invoice that raises a question. If you don't willingly discuss fees, one day you may find that your client leaves you without explanation. And, truth be told, the reason may be because he thought you always overcharged him -- or because he never understood your invoices.

You can gain a competitive edge over other lawyers by (1) calculating fees and charges in ways that favor your clients, and (2) discussing those methods openly and in advance. Lawyers who hesitate to discuss fees may discover that their clients look elsewhere for legal services. But lawyers who discuss fees and explain how they charge add value to their services and seize yet another major competitive advantage.
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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

Minería

La minera canadiense Barrick señaló que consideraría retomar la construcción de Pascua Lama, en Chile, sólo si el plan de acción para el desarrollo del proyecto aurífero demuestra retornos "aceptables" del capital invertido, de al menos un 15%. (Presione aquí)

Energía

La cementera Cemex informó que creó una división de energía para desarrollar proyectos en México, que espera podrían abastecer hasta un 5.0 % de las necesidades de electricidad en el país en los próximos cinco años. La empresa, que arrastra una pesada deuda desde que adquirió a la australiana Rinker en el 2007, dijo en un comunicado que espera contribuir con US$ 30 mlls en Cemex Energía en los próximos cinco años.

  • Brief News

US and UK accused of hacking Sim card firm to steal codes

US and British intelligence agencies illegally hacked into a major manufacturer of Sim cards to steal codes and facilitate eavesdropping on mobiles, a US news website says. The Intercept website said that the information came from former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The company allegedly targeted - Gemalto - says it is taking the allegations "very seriously". It operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. The Intercept says that "the great Sim heist" gave US and British surveillance agencies "the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world's cellular communications, including both voice and data". It says that among the clients of the Netherlands-based company are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and "some 450 wireless network providers around the world".

Lenovo taken to task over 'malicious' adware

Computer maker Lenovo has been forced to remove hidden adware that it was shipping on its laptops and PCs after users expressed anger. The adware - dubbed Superfish - was potentially compromising their security, said experts. The hidden software was also injecting adverts on to browsers using techniques more akin to malware, they added. Lenovo faces questions about why and for how long it was pre-installed on machines - and what data was collected. According to security experts, it appears that Lenovo had given Superfish permission to issue its own certificates, allowing it to collect data over secure web connections, known in malware parlance as a man-in-the-middle attack.

Eurozone set for vital Greece talks

Eurozone finance ministers are preparing for a crunch meeting in Brussels to try to solve the crisis over Greece's bail-out. Greece has put forward a proposal for a six-month extension of its Eurozone loan program instead of renewing its existing bailout deal, which comes with harsh austerity measures. But Germany has already rejected this. The existing bailout deal expires at the end of the month and Greece could run out of money without a new accord.

Holder voices support for moratorium on death penalty

US Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday voiced his support for a moratorium on the death penalty pending a decision by the Supreme Court on the Oklahoma death penalty case. Speaking in a personal capacity before the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Holder stated his own views that the death penalty is wrong and until the Supreme court speaks on the matter that all pending death penalties should be halted. He noted that the criminal justice system can make mistakes, ranging from wrongful convictions to botched injections. He further said that the problems with our justice system have improved over the past year and that for the first time in 32 years there has been a drop in the number of incarcerated individuals.

Instead of stop-and-frisk, how about stop-and-shake?

In a speech last week, FBI Director James Comey addressed racial tensions between police and minorities. A new effort in his hometown of Yonkers, N.Y., tries to get officers and young people talking.

Thailand bans commercial surrogacy for foreigners

Thailand has passed a law banning foreigners from paying Thai women to be surrogates, after two high-profile cases sparked debate last year. The legislation also bans the use of agents, or any promotion of women willing to carry babies for others. Last year the case of a little boy born with Down's syndrome put Thailand's surrogacy industry in the spotlight. His Thai surrogate mother said his Australian parents abandoned him, but took his healthy twin sister home. Commercial surrogacy was supposedly banned by Thailand's Medical Council in 1997. Nevertheless a booming surrogacy industry has sprung up, attracting many foreigners.

Ukraine: EU 'badly misread' Russia

The European Union have been accused of a "catastrophic misreading" of the mood in the Kremlin in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine. The UK House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe "sleepwalked" into the crisis. The EU had not realized the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said. The Lords committee's report also said Britain had not been "active or visible enough" in dealing with the situation. It blamed cuts in the Foreign Office, which it said meant it had fewer Russian experts and put less emphasis on analysis. A similar decline in EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an "authoritative response" to the situation in Ukraine, it said. It claimed that for too long the EU's relationship with Moscow had been based on the "optimistic premise" that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country.

AmEx loses suit on merchant rules

American Express Co. fell in New York trading after a judge ruled that the company violated antitrust law with its policy barring merchants from asking customers to use other forms of payment. The lender failed to show that its so-called non-discrimination provisions, imposed on merchants who agree to accept its card, don't harm competition, Garaufis said in his ruling. The US Justice Department victory in its lawsuit against the credit-card company might give merchants more leverage in their efforts to cut the costs, which are largely hidden from consumers. It is the latest in a series of blows to the New York-based firm after its partnerships with Costco Wholesale Corp. and JetBlue Airways Corp. ended. The lawsuit is "a major risk to the business." AmEx is "disappointed" with the decision and will appeal.

A call for law firms to go public

Many law firms have been seeking new ways to keep themselves financially sound as their clients become more cost conscious. Now, a founder of a major litigation finance company, who is also a law professor at Georgetown University, is urging a more radical step: Abandon the partnership structure. Instead of having partners provide equity, which can be withdrawn when they leave or retire, said Jonathan T. Molot, firms should go public and receive funding from outsiders so they have the cash to invest in areas like lawyer training and technology. "Clients feel overcharged and underserved and are constantly searching for a better deal from a different firm," Molot said. The idea of allowing alternate business structures for law firms was rejected by the American Bar Association in 2000, and again two years ago, with the lawyers' group blocking non-lawyer involvement on grounds that it could interfere with a lawyer's professional judgment.

EU failing to address Hungary 'rule of law' concerns

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday condemned the EU for refusing to take action to address Hungary's alleged problematic laws and practices regarding human rights since the European Commission enacted a "rule of law" measure in March 2014. This measure was created to address abuses of human rights in the EU member states and was purported to be a constitutionally binding principle. The HRW report indicates that Hungary's problematic practices include limitations on the powers of the Constitutional court; restraints on media freedom; and restrictions on the rights of women, people with disabilities, religious groups and homeless people. The only exceptions in the United States are firms in Washington with lobbying practices, which can have non-lawyers as principals. Such practices are yet to be allowed by states, which oversee law firms.

Colombia rules on same-sex adoption

A court in Colombia rules that same-sex couples can adopt children, but only if the child is the offspring of one of the partners.

BP loses bid to reduce Gulf of Mexico oil spill fine

BP has lost its bid to reduce the maximum civil fine of $13.7bn (£8.9bn) it could face for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A US judge rejected BP's appeal to pay a cap of $3,000 per barrel under the country's Clean Water Act. Government prosecutors claim the firm is liable to pay $4,300 per barrel spilled to account for inflation. The court has yet to decide the amount of responsibility and final penalty the firm will pay for the disaster. The 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused the largest oil spill in US history.

Idaho panel recommends repealing 151-year-old dueling law

A legislative panel is recommending that a 151-year-old Idaho law on duels be repealed. The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee unanimously voted Thursday to eliminate the last remaining reference to dueling in Idaho law. The rule - on the books since Idaho's very first legislature as a territory - gives the Gem State jurisdiction over out-of-state duels if a person involved dies in Idaho. Michael Kane from the Idaho Sheriffs' Association called the rule completely obsolete. When multiple lawmakers said they wanted to sponsor the bill on the House floor, Republican Rep. Don Cheatham from Post Falls joked they should duel to decide who does.

FTC files lawsuit challenging Sysco-US foods merger

A divided Federal Trade Commission sued Thursday to block Sysco Corp. 's acquisition of rival US Foods Inc., a long-awaited move that sets the stage for a major court battle over a plan to combine the nation's two largest food distributors. The FTC alleged the proposed tie-up would create a dominant national company that could raise prices and reduce service for restaurants, hotels, schools and other institutions that buy food, paper products and a wide range of supplies from Sysco and US Foods. A combined company would control 75% of the sales in broadline food-service distribution for national customers, the FTC alleged. It also said the merger would be problematic in 32 local markets around the US

  • Daily Press Review

Tales from Virunga
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Ariel U. giving credits for non-academic study at Jewish seminaries
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Eurozone set for vital Greece talks
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Victim's family knows road-rage suspect
CNN International, London, England

Kenneth Branagh to set up his own theatre company
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Sea creatures are getting BIGGER: Researchers say giants of the deep are largest †
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Russia: Prominent anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny jailed
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

Video: Chadian army clashes with Boko Haram in Nigeria
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

'Confronting political Islam'
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

George Osborne warns of 'full-blown crisis' as Greece standoff with eurozone continues
Independent The, London, England

El Salvadoran women released from prison after pardon for miscarriage
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Watch: Sarah Ferguson takes to the catwalk during Fashion For Relief show
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Temple 'sprints' start the Year of the Goat
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Germany Rejects Greece's Extension Proposal
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Islamic State has a problem power struggles among fighters
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Five US companies to invest in Indore: CM
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Nikkei closes in on 15-year high thanks to surge in optimism
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Dollar Drag: surging buck hits US corporate earnings
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Ukraine President cancels trip over protests in eastern Ukraine
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Live Super Rugby: Rebels v Waratahs
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

REVLIMIDR (Lenalidomide) Approved by the European Commission for the Treatment of Adult Patients with Previously Untreated Multi
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Ukraine says rebel attacks continue despite cease-fire
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Netanyahu: Israel knows details of proposed U.S.-Iran deal
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

U.S., Turkey sign deal to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Liberty Reserve Brought Down By 'Joe Bogus': How The Feds Arrested Arthur Budovsky
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

Chikungunya Thrives with Climate Variability in the Caribbean
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Japan January inflation seen easing, factory output up; BOJ sits tight
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Greece hopes for solution, still opposed to bailout - government spokesman
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Horror, hope and heartbreak for our lost child Elijah: Keenan
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Mali ends battle with rebel groups
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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