How Lawyers Can Respond to Pricing Discount Requests in a Way that Enhances the Client Relationship

Lawyers often squirm when the topic of pricing discounts comes up. Talking about money can be uncomfortable, and there is a general reluctance among lawyers to have conversations about invoices, especially when a client asks for a discount. Many may be tempted to quickly agree to the request and issue a new invoice; however, there are better ways to handle discount requests.

Lawyers can prevent misassumptions and address the client’s concerns more effectively when they have a conversation with their client. Additionally, when lawyers lean into conversations about pricing with humility, curiosity, and creativity, discount requests become an opportunity to enhance the client relationship.

3 Tips for Handling Pricing Discount Requests

When a client requests a discount, lawyers should resist the temptation to quickly agree and instead keep in mind these three tips for handling the request:

1. Consider the request a relationship-building opportunity.

Talking about money is among the most uncomfortable discussions in a client relationship often resulting in an immediate grant of the discount to avoid a conversation altogether. A shift in mindset when these conversations arise is the critical first step. When lawyers look at pricing conversations as an opportunity to invest in the relationship, their behavior shifts from discomfort to enthusiasm. Rather than feeling reluctant to engage in a conversation about money, they will approach the request eagerly because it offers a chance to deepen the relationship.

2. Use the request as an opportunity to learn.

When clients approach lawyers with a discount request, the lawyers who use the request as an inquisitive moment often find a solution that satisfies both parties and builds a better rapport with the client. Lawyers can use discount requests as a chance to ask questions that seek to better understand the client’s needs, objectives, and concerns.

Before going into the pricing discount conversation, lawyers should ask themselves if this creates a way to better understand their client’s budget preferences or if it generates an opportunity to gain access to other influencers within the business. Then, when approached with a discount request, lawyers can respond by acknowledging the request and asking follow-up questions like:

  • Talk me through your budgeting process.
  • What’s most important to you in controlling/monitoring your outside counsel spend?
  • Does anyone else monitor your budget?
  • What is most important to the organization from a financial perspective?
  • Are there cash flow or timing issues to be aware of?

By asking these questions and engaging in the conversation, lawyers often learn that a one-time discount may not be the solution the client ultimately wants. Often, clients want greater predictability, better communication about costs, an appreciation of their budgeting needs, and alignment with those needs. Approaching the request with curiosity gives the lawyer a chance to solve the root cause of the client’s problem more effectively and sustainably.  

Asking questions may also give lawyers access to other decision-makers or influencers who can help the lawyer better understand the interplay between the various client stakeholders. When a lawyer better understands the dynamic between all interested parties, they can be better allies for their client contact. .

3. Discuss creative alternatives.

Finally, pricing requests allow lawyers to showcase their creativity and flexibility skills. Rather than simply agreeing to a discount, lawyers can use the request to discuss a possible re-scoping of the work, consider ways to manage conversations about new and ongoing work, or suggest moving away from hourly rates to fee arrangements that better accommodate the needs and interests of a client..

Lawyers can also respond to discount requests by offering regular pre-bill conversations so the client can clearly understand the work done, the legal work on the horizon, and how that fits with overall budgets.

Best Practices When a Discount Is Necessary

If a discount is necessary, managing the messaging surrounding the decision is essential. First, decisions to honor a pricing discount request should always include a conversation rather than simply issuing an adjusted invoice. Without a conversation, clients can interpret the discount in many different ways, which can lead to misassumptions.

Second, the conversation should include clear parameters on what the discount applies to and the rationale. Without parameters, a client may (incorrectly) presume that the discounted rate will apply to future invoices, which can lead to additional challenges down the road.

While conversations about money can be uncomfortable, leaning into conversations about pricing and discounts is far better than avoiding the topic. When lawyers confidently talk about money, with a willingness to better understand their client’s perspective and objectives, they ultimately show the client they are invested in the relationship and committed to being an effective business partner.