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Letter: customise, don’t commoditise

6 Aug 18

Taking a little more time can often give you an advantage, and justify a higher fee

by Ashley Swanson

Never in history has so much information been so readily available as at the present time, thanks to the internet. Ignorance has not however been abolished, and as all solicitors will know, sourcing the information is only half of the story. The skill lies in assessing what is in front of you and working it into the overall picture.

A client was looking to purchase a building plot which had planning consent for a detached house. I was trawling through the Aberdeenshire Council website to see if I could glean any information from the ancillary documentation for the planning application. This may not be standard procedure in such a purchase, but it paid a spectacular dividend.

There was correspondence which stated that the owners of the plot were in serious financial difficulty. A few clicks later on was another letter which said that they literally had the bank breathing down their necks. What was their negotiating position in such circumstances?

If there is one thing above all others I have learned in my time in the law it is that more often than not you can come out on top, not because you are a better solicitor than whoever is on the other side, or have a better case. It is simply because you are putting in more time than they are. This is the complete opposite of “commoditised legal services”, but if you can make your client appreciate the extra effort they should not grudge an upward adjustment in the fee quotation.

Ashley Swanson, Aberdeen


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