Pricing issues? Tackle them in the right order

Pricing issues? Tackle them in the right order

When clients complain about the unpredictability of fees, lawyers often chide them that the law is not like a can of beans. But the recent travails of one beans baron hold lessons for us all.

The supermarket group Morrisons has had a torrid time, caught between the rock of competition from discounters and the hard place of an online offering years behind its peers. Its most heavily discounted item in the last three years has been its profits, which have tanked by two thirds.

Earlier this year, Dalton Philips, the chief executive, launched a new strategy to turn things around, confronting the discounters head-on by making swingeing price cuts across the range. His reward so far has been a further dive in profits and this fraternal contribution to the AGM from former chairman, Sir Ken Morrison: “When I left work... I chose to raise cattle. I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you’ve got a lot more bullsh** than me.”

Whether or not Mr Philips’ strategy is a load of bullocks will be checked out over time, as indeed may he. But so far, a major hurdle is clear: the pricing has changed, but the way Morrisons operates, and therefore its costs, have not.

Pricing legal services has been a hot topic since the recession. Gripped warmly by clients in their most sensitive areas, lawyers sweat daily over how they can price to wi

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