Monday, September 24, 2012

Courting Corporate Clients: Contracting for Services

You might recall an earlier post asking whether or not any of you other PIs out there worked on a retainer basis with your corporate clients.

I didn't get any response to that post, sadly.

Nevertheless, I soldiered on and worked on a proposal to a law firm to whom I have been providing services to for a number of years (mostly to one lawyer who is a friend, but sometimes to others). They are one of the largest firms in Bad City.

Here was my plan...

Basically, one of my biggest banes, as I am sure is the same for many of you in similar situations, is the lack of any kind of certainty in regards to workload and (more importantly) cashflow from clients. Case in point, it had been months since I'd had any work from this particular firm - months - and we're talking about only getting a few hundred dollars worth of work on any given month as it was. The work was predominantly document service rather than anything investigative.

So my plan was to work out a range of options highlighting the value of entering into a contract for services where I would charge a standard monthly service fee ($500) which would cover the following:

  • Up to 10 documents served that calendar month 
  • Additional documents served at preferential rate
  • All documents personally uplifted from office
  • All documents treated as PRIORITY jobs (precedence over other work)
  • All documents served within 48 hours (or at least all 3 attempts exhausted)
  • URGENT service (ie same-day) at same as standard rate
  • Standard investigative services at preferential rate
Clearly, it benefits me because I am assured a certain amount of income each month. Even better if I can get a number of firms onboard! It benefits the Client because, as long as they get at more than 5 documents to me a month to serve, they will be getting discounted rates as well as a better level of service than a 'standard' fee would normally entail, along with preferential rates for other associated services.

Given the size of this particular firm, along with others I had in mind, I find it difficult to believe they couldn't rustle up a couple of documents a week between their Litigation, Family, and Criminal departments.

The feedback from my friend is that there would be no way his firm would agree to such a contract because, firstly, it doesn't fit in with their billing regime. How are they supposed to break up this service fee and charge accordingly to their own clients and where do they bill it to if there are no documents served that month?

I suggested that perhaps it could be treated like any other service charge, such as their phone and internet costs, or utilities.

Apparantly it can't although I don't know why they are not able to just adjust their base fee which addresses utilities etc that all clients are billed for? We are talking about a monthly charge equivalent to an hour and a bit billing from one of the Senior Partners - you think it could be slotted in somehow.

Secondly, the firm wouldn't like the idea of having to pay me irrespective of whether or not they had any work for me that month. Again, I find it difficult to imagine that they couldn't rustle up a couple of documents a week between all their departments given the size of the firm. However, this is the same firm where a Partner complained I was 'pricing myself out of business' when I charged them a small surcharge (as is standard practice in the industry) when they got me to drop what I was doing and do an urgent job for them.

Buy-in from other Partners is supposedly the next stumbling block. Other lawyers have long-standing personal relationships with other PIs, hence they get the work. So much for a free market!

With substantial price and time savings (undercutting even that of the other PIs) that just requires an agreement to send at least a certain amount of work my way, surely you would think this idea had traction?

Sadly, no.

I have to admit this depressed me.

Actually, I was already depressed. Whenever I get this way I manically come up with 'good ideas' like this one to try and find a solution to my current woes.

Not this time.

So now I'm back at the drawing board trying to find some kind of 'package' I can offer that will get me a small but consistent amount of work (and therefore income) from local corporate clients such as law firms but I'm finding a wall of obstinancy and reluctance to try new ideas even when it is seemingly in their interests.

Any advice from you, Dear Reader?


  1. As far as your "good ideas" go this is one of the better ones. Certainly better than the "reverse blackmail" one. Could you encourage more custom from these clients by guaranteeing a discount once you get over a certain number of jobs per month? Would that even be worth it?

    1. I have a particular fondness for the 'reverse blackmail' one - it's not been completely abandoned yet.

      Yes, I have also thought about the rebate method where if I receive more than X jobs that calendar month, the Client will receive $Y off the final invoice.

      However, that doesn't guarantee me a particular level of work/income each month - which is really the point of this exercise.