“You’re Not Cheap!”

I recently attended a meeting with an attorney, who is a client of mine, and the attorney’s client, the person who paid for my services. It is rare in my world of jury/trial consulting to attend a meeting that involves the “end client,” that is, the party to the litigation, as opposed to his/her/its attorney. (I include the pronoun, “its,” in that most of Magnus’ end clients are not individuals; rather, they are corporations represented by attorneys, who then retain my company.) The purpose of this meeting was to review an extensive written report I prepared, with the excellent help of my staff, of course, regarding the results of several mock trials my firm had conducted on the case. Although every case on which I consult includes a report review session with all of the attorneys who are involved and sometimes, a general counsel, risk manager, insurance adjuster, or another corporate type person, it is highly unusual for me to interact with the actual plaintiff or defendant unless I am involved in selecting a jury. On this case, however, the individual who retained Magnus is a very sophisticated and wealthy person who wanted to meet me in person, to discuss the case face to face. The meeting began on a positive note, with the client exclaiming to me, as soon as I introduced myself, that my report was impressive and worth every penny I charged. Later in the meeting, things took a different turn when I was asked to describe additional services that would be beneficial for the case, along with their price. It was at this time that the client remarked, “I just want you to know: You’re not cheap!”. Instead of being insulted, I accepted the client’s comment as a compliment. I replied, with a happy tone in my voice, “Thank you! It has never been my desire to be cheap! I’m glad you recognize I’m not cheap!”. The attorney gasped, fearful I had alienated our client, but the client burst out with laughter and said, “Well, you’ve got a good point, Dr. Pigott. I guess the last thing you want to be accused of is doing cheap work.” I couldn’t wait to return to the office to tell David what happened. He, more than anyone else, knows I am not cheap, regardless of the circumstances. No, I’m not cheap; the services I provide to clients are anything but cheap; and if someone is looking for someone to work for them cheaply, I encourage them to look elsewhere!

Melissa was still laughing about this encounter when she returned from this meeting. We both chuckled about it after she shared it. She is clearly not cheap. I can attest to that! But, in the context of business, we have never had the goal of being cheap. We are often not the most expensive trial consulting group, but we see no reason to shoot for cheap – in all of its connotations. Rather, our business goal has been to provide high value services relative to the price. The work we do is expensive, sometimes more than others. And, I know/we know, that our work is not appropriate for every case. The overhead and direct costs involved in our work are not cheap. Doing things the “right way” in trial consulting, or jury research, is expensive. Cheap means short cuts. Cheap usually means low quality. Neither are good things. Doing things cheaply, as some of our competitors do, is much more expensive when the results are not as expected. Getting a bad trial or case result because short cuts were taken is, as the saying goes, penny wise and pound foolish (or dollar – depending on which side of the pond you are on). Expertise does not come cheaply. When it does, it is sometimes said “you get what you pay for.” The person who made this comment to Melissa doesn’t work cheaply, and thus, recognized her response as perfectly valid. There are times I wish we could work for free – and we do pro bono work sometimes – but my point is that I wish we could help everyone without regard to cost. I also wish I didn’t have credit card bills, rent, and payroll to make. Many times I have tried to point out to prospective clients that the most expensive decision they can make in hiring us, or any trial expert or service, is to hire the lowest bidder. Perhaps that works for commodities like paper clips or pencils, but not for professional services. Reasonable, competitive pricing is one thing; cheap is another!

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