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October 28, 2008


Marc Thomas

Okay, I don't buy this for most legal services, particularly litigation. This idea that I'm the one that should know exactly how much it should cost at each stage of say, a tax controversy or a pension plan dispute is ludicrous, really. The complexity of the issues and tenacity of the opposition are not always known or fully appreciated before the start of the matter. Unknowns, tripwires, and unanticipated events and arguments always present after the fact.

Moreover, what about the ethics of billing in a fashion that fixes the fees at various stages? If everything is as I predict (rarely or never the case), then it's fair. Otherwise, the client or I am getting shafted from a bad deal. If the client is overcharged, that's potentially unethical. If I'm shorted, it's at least not fair to me, my partners, or employees.

The hourly rate, like it or not, is the fairest to all parties, assuming the attorney isn't making up his hours. A contingent fee the fairest of all, but it assumes the attorney is willing to take on the risk. That isn't possible in a lot of litigation.

Wills, trusts, probate administration, and the like, sure. Fix your fees. The process is so predictable it's fair to all. Litigation and other controversies are hourly fee matters and, in some cases, contingent. But I'm not buying that an hourly rate, agreed to by the client and the attorney is the most ethical and fair to all parties.

Finally, as to point 4, that's why hourly cases require substantial retainers and a fee agreement that allows you to withdraw for nonpayment. Who's smarter, now?

Kimberly Alderman

Hm... This was definitely more an argument against hourly billing than how to do it best. There are certainly instances where hourly billing is appropriate (for instance when practitioners hire freelance lawyers), and I'd love to see Ten Rules About Hourly Billing (as opposed to Ten Reasons Not to Bill Hourly), so that I might expand my perception of how to do it most efficiently and ethically. I offer flat rate billing, but some clients just don't want it!

Vickie Pynchon

Fabulous! Were I still practicing law, I'd circulate this to my partners and rant about it at partnership meetings where they'd continue to look at me as if I had just stepped out of a flying saucer. Same look they had when I said "abolish the summer associate program; let Skadden train them & pick them up in their 3rd year when they're profitable, offering quality of life over $$$." What firm was that? Oh . . .it doesn't exist anymore. Wonder why.


Hey Mr. Homann (calling a lawyer by his first name seems, friendly). By the way it's me again.

I hate to even mention this thought that occured to me while reading your post because 1. I haven't followed you enough to know whether you are already doing it or not. 2. If you aren't doing it you might start. The thought, well for every ying there is a yang, or should be. For your above metioned items, all the consumer benefits should be in another blog aimed at the competition (or should I say clients)?

It would be great if your kind could work a sliding scale, such as "if we are successful in our endeavours to get you (Ms. Client) the results you want we will be paid "X". However if we are not, we get "sq." (Now if I could get those chiropractors' that worked on me without success the same sliding scale, with "sq" = jack-squat.

Oh well I enjoyed your post and it re-affirmed what marketing guru D.K. said about "....if you are in a commodity business you need to get out."


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