Serving Up a Pound of Cure
As chair of the Employment and Labor Group at Minneapolis's 157-lawyer Lindquist & Vennum (www.lindquist.com), Nancy Vollertsen was interested in building new business for her practice group. Drawing on her extensive experience in all areas of employment law, she hit on a way to develop business by helping clients prevent problems in their workplaces. She designed a flat-fee program called the L&V Employment Assessment, which helps companies spot potential legal issues with their employment policies and practices -- at a predictable, affordable price.
The service begins with a visit to the client's business, for an on-site evaluation of selected personnel files, employee applications, employee handbooks and job descriptions, HR policies, pay practices and other related items. Within one week of the visit, the client receives a written report noting problem areas and providing specific, practical recommendations to reduce the company's exposure to lawsuits.
Interestingly, while Vollertsen and her colleagues were willing to conduct the assessments as a loss leader, they found that pricing the service too low resulted in a perception that it lacked value. In fact, when they subsequently raised the price, they actually picked up more clients. And the clients, according to Vollertsen, have been very happy with the service.
There have, as with most new programs, been some bumps along the way. One issue has been the economy. In a time when, as Vollertsen notes, "companies are eliminating discretionary funds or looking at reductions in workforce," it can be difficult to promote new legal services. In addition, the marketing effort remains a work in progress -- to date, it has been limited by concerns about rules of professional conduct, among other factors.
Yet even given the obstacles of the day, the program is doing its assigned job and attracting new clients, some of whom have then retained the firm for all their labor and employment work. Those businesses, it would seem, recognize the good sense inherent in the old maxim included in the program's description: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."