June 3, 2016 nº 1,750 - Vol. 13

"The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who can't."

Mark Twain

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

Uber, Lyft driver settlements signal gig economy victories ahead

Sharing economy workers’ best shot at suing to rewrite the rules of their employment may soon pass them by. With judges poised Thursday to consider settlements that will leave Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. drivers as independent contractors, two of the biggest names in the on-demand economy will avoid policy changes that would force them to rethink their business models. Uber and Lyft can also keep using a play borrowed from the traditional economy by requiring drivers to take disputes to private arbitration rather than court. Such agreements, coupled with provisions blocking workers from using the leverage of class action lawsuits like the ones filed by Uber and Lyft drivers, are now ubiquitous among US employers. The drivers’ cases were allowed to proceed only because their lawyer found holes in earlier versions of company contracts. The ride-share companies have since closed those gaps. Uber’s revised driver contracts have already allowed it to smother similar challenges in Arizona, Ohio, Florida and Maryland, with federal judges in those states upholding its arbitration agreements this year. “What the Uber settlement really demonstrates is that the solution to the misclassification of workers as independent contractors cannot be in the hands of private attorneys. If a company like Uber can avoid public enforcement of California’s employment laws through arbitration agreements, where does that leave workers for whom those laws were passed? The only solution is legislation and governmental regulatory enforcement."

  • Crumbs

1 - White lawyers three times more likely to be appointed as recorders - click here.

2 - BHS to close with loss of 11,000 jobs and 164 shops after rescue bids fail to find a buyer - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

US subpoenas Huawei over its dealings in Iran and North Korea

Officials are questioning the Chinese telecom giant’s exports to countries covered by sanctions, amid a broader debate over global communications.

China adds yet another sphinx to its many replica monuments

A huge replica sphinx has been built in China, the latest in a series of copies of the ancient Egyptian monument in the Middle Kingdom. As well as the knockoff Great Sphinx of Giza, the Lanzhou Silk Road Cultural Relics Park has built replicas of the Greek Parthenon and other world wonders. Lanzhou, in northwest China, is hoping the famous fakes will draw tourists, as well as the film and gaming industries, reported China Daily. The town was once a major trading hub on the Silk Road, which China is trying to revive.

  • 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 email 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

Arbitraje

El Fondo Gramercy presentó una demanda de arbitraje por US$ 1.600 mlls. contra Perú, como parte de una disputa por la expropiación de sus inversiones en bonos agrarios y el incumplimiento de un acuerdo comercial en los EE.UU. (Presione aquí)

China – México

México abre mano y permite el ingreso de autos chinos a su mercado. El Grupo Picacho Automotriz presentó al público mexicano la unidad subcompacta de la empresa china BAIC, que estará a la venta en Ciudad de México. BAIC es uno de los cinco mayores productores de autos en China con más de 2 millones de vehículos al año, y en México tendrá una venta inicial de 1,000 unidades del modelo D20.

Minera

La minera chilena SQM, una de las mayores productoras mundiales de fertilizantes de especialidad del mundo, elevará en un 50% su capacidad de producción de nitrato de potasio, para lo cual construirá una planta en el norte del país. El CEO de la minera no metálica, golpeada por un escándalo de aportes ilegales a campañas políticas en Chile en 2015, informó que se espera determinar el monto de la inversión en la nueva planta durante el tercer trimestre de este año y el inicio de la producción se proyecta para mediados del 2018.

  • Brief News

Uber meets wary judge in pursuit of $100 million driver deal

Uber Technologies Inc. may have to return to the bargaining table to show just how badly it wants to avoid a jury trial with drivers demanding to be treated as employees. The world’s largest ride-share company faced off in court Thursday with critics who say it’s getting off too easily in a proposed $100 million deal with 385,000 current and former drivers in California and Massachusetts that would leave its workforce classified as independent contractors. Most of the objections that have piled up over six weeks fault the drivers’ lawyer, saying she folded on the lawsuit’s core purpose so she could collect a $25 million fee for herself. Uber, whose $62.5 billion valuation makes it the biggest sharing-economy company, agreed as part of the deal to let drivers solicit tips and allot payouts based on the miles they’ve driven. The fate of the deal rests with US District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco, who spoke at the outset of a hearing of the “elephant in the room” -- a broad provision in the settlement releasing the company from liability for violations of labor laws. The judge voiced concern that approving the accord would preclude claims over minimum wage, overtime and workers compensation from being pursued in other active cases.

Trump keeps up attacks on judge

Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the federal judge presiding over civil fraud lawsuits against Trump University, amid criticism from legal observers who say the comments are an unusual affront on an independent judiciary.

German Parliament votes to recognize mass killing of Armenians as genocide

German legislators overwhelmingly agreed the World War I-era killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks constituted genocide. In response, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Germany. Turkey called the vote "an example of ignorance and disrespect". Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people died in the atrocities of 1915. Turkey says the toll was much lower and rejects the term "genocide". The vote heightens German-Turkish tensions at a time when Turkey's help is needed to control migrant arrivals. The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the resolution would seriously affect relations with Germany, and that the government would consider further measures in response to the vote. (Click here)

EU court adviser: sanctions against Russia legally valid

A senior adviser to the European Court of Justice submitted an advisory opinion Tuesday finding the July 2014 EU economic sanctions against Russia legally valid. In response to a challenge by Russian oil and gas company Rosneft, Melchior Wathelet found all but one sanction to be valid and asked the court to adopt his opinion. While Wathelet's opinion is non-binding, the court typically adopts the advocate general's findings. The court is expected to issue a ruling in three to six months.

Former AIG Chief Hank Greenberg must stand trial for fraud, N.Y. Court rules

The decision by New York State's Court of Appeals is a victory for state officials, who filed charges against the insurance industry icon 11 years ago.

Venezuela authorities postpone decision on Maduro referendum

Venezuela's electoral authorities have postponed a key meeting with the opposition in which they were expected to announce whether to allow a recall referendum. The opposition gathered 1.85 million signatures in favor of the referendum to oust President Nicolas Maduro. But the National Electoral Council has yet to say if the petition is valid.

EU warns Poland over constitutional court changes

The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday adopted a rule of law opinion on Poland, warning that changes to the country's constitutional court pose a risk to the rule of law. Following Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party obtaining power, a new law allowed the government to appoint judges to the highest court and not recognize those who served under the old system. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the PiS called the EU's action a "made up procedure." However, Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the EC said all member states are responsible for complying with treaties passed by the Union and called for the Polish government to respond quickly

DOJ objects to judge's order for ethics classes

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday challenged a federal judge's order requiring DOJ lawyers to attend ethics classes. Judge Andrew Hanen of the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas ordered government attorneys to take ethics classes after he accused them of misleading him in a legal challenge to President Barack Obama's amnesty orders. He accused the attorneys of being "intentionally deceptive." The judge claimed that DOJ attorneys knew that the Obama administration was approving amnesty applications but actively hid that evidence from both him and the 26 states that sued to stop the amnesty. Furthermore, he claimed that after the Obama administration had been ordered to stop, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had continued to approve thousands of application.The DOJ argued that his order exceeds his authority and is far too costly to enforce such training.

Wealthy pay for gilded jail cells

There is a growing trend among extremely wealthy people accused of crimes, who are now able to pay huge amounts of money for monitored house arrest, or "personal jails," rather than going to prison. The tactic has been employed by accused criminals from Bernie Madoff to David Brooks, but is now coming under scrutiny from public defenders and prosecutors who find the practice unfair.

Brazil urged to end police brutality ahead of Olympics

Amnesty International has urged Brazilian authorities to prevent police brutality and respect human rights as they prepare to host this summer's Olympic Games.

Payday loans’ debt spiral to be curtailed

Protections are coming from a consumer agency that likens the lending to “getting into a taxi just to ride across town and finding yourself stuck in a ruinously expensive cross-country journey.”

Court allows cell phone tracking

An appeals court ruling will allow federal agents to obtain cell phone location records without getting a warrant first. The ruling aligns the Fourth Circuit court with three other regional appeals courts, and now allows law enforcement officers in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia to obtain cell phone location data by simply showing that the records are relevant to an ongoing investigation.

Madonna prevails in copyright lawsuit over 'Vogue' song

Pop singer Madonna prevailed on Thursday in a copyright lawsuit over her song "Vogue" that alleged a producer copied a fraction-of-a-second segment of horns from an earlier song.

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