Should your law firm offer coupons? No. See, that wasn't too hard, was it?
OK, the answer might not be that simple, but for most practice areas, most lawyers, and most clients, coupons are a bit too low-class for general use. You won't see any BigLaw firms tossing out coupons. You won't even see most family law lawyers tossing out coupons. And seriously, as a client, what would you think if you got a "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" coupon for DUIs or divorces?
Still, you might be tempted, especially if you're targeting budget-conscious clients. Just in case, here are a few more reasons to ditch the coupons, all of which deal with the issue of a client walking in to your office with the offer in hand, ready to take you up on it:
You offer a $799 misdemeanor defense coupon. Low and behold, a client walks in with a federal misdemeanor charge that you've never heard of and your docket is already clogged.
This is a problem with walk-in clients, of course, but when they walk in with a coupon for a fixed-fee rate, they're going to expect you to honor it. And when you say, "That's too complicated for me," they're going to hear, "He's stealing my bargain from me!"
The coupon says you can get a will for $100. But what if the client is a high net worth individual with tax issues? What if that simple will turns into a complex will, or what if the client would be better served with a full estate plan complete with a trust?
Yeah, most clients will appreciate your honesty and not see it as a bait-and-switch. But some will.
Coupons are best limited to extremely predictable flat-fee services where there is little possibility of either party getting a bad deal.
OK With a Disclaimer?
The New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics, discussing "daily deal" or online group coupons sites, suggested limiting language be added to such offers:
To avoid the premature and improper formation of a lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer's advertisement on a "deal of the day" website [or group coupon] must make clear that the offer made on the website is subject to a number of conditions. These would include that before such a relationship is formed, the lawyer will check for conflicts and determine that the lawyer is competent to provide legal services that are appropriate to the consumer. If the lawyer determines that the lawyer-client relationship is untenable for these reasons, the lawyer must give the coupon buyer a full refund.
One would be well-advised to include the same terms on a print coupon to cover any potential issues with conflicts or competency. Coupons aren't high-class, but if that doesn't bother you or your clientele, they might be worth trying, with the appropriate disclaimers.