The Traditional Approach with Clients seeks to insulate Lawyers and Law Firms from Accountability to those Clients
Nothing in Law or Life is Real

Have you ever considered waiving fees even when you did nothing wrong?

      I received a really nice email from a client today who ended up having his case dismissed on summary disposition because our states highest court reversed decades of its own prior precedent in order to reach the political result that it desired. Incredibly the court offered no retro-activity for those attorneys and clients who had relied on the prior court precedent in the handling of the statute of limitations issues which it addressed.

      Despite the outcome, the client sincerely appreciated the way that we handled the matter, including a waiver of several thousand dollars in fees at the end of the case once the state supreme court changed the law. There was certainly no requirement to waive those fees under the retainer agreement. It was not our fault that the states highest court over ruled its prior precedent. But, it did seem the right thing to do given our constant push to share a level of risk with the client. Many firms would be shocked by an approach which penalized the firm for essentially doing nothing wrong. I think that it is critical that attorneys always have some skin in the game, as they would if the matter was being handled purely on a contingency fee. The goal is not simply to collect as much money from the client as possible. The goal is to deliver results. When those results are not achieved, even when the lawyer has done their very best, there ought to be some sharing of the risk.

      The good will that was fostered with the client over our approach strengthens a relationship which I suppose should be broken at this point. A couple thousand dollars in fees which we voluntarily waived, I believe, will be made up down the line by the handling of further matters for the client, or referrals from the client. This would indeed be an unusual result if client referrals were generated from a client who ended up having his underlying case thrown out of court.

      The feedback I am getting from my clients over my approach tells me that our business model is working and is the only one that makes sense for us. By thinking outside the "hourly billing" box, we are able to achieve things in term of client relations that no traditional hourly billing firm could ever achieve.

Comments

Anon

You should make this blog not anonymous. Seriously. Use it to aid in marketing; you're doing great.

GAL

Thanks Anon. I appreciate your kudos and support. Why am I still anonymous? The answer gets less and less clear each month that goes by. But there are some benefits which are pretty nice. No one has to wonder about what my agenda is or whether I am being self-serving. I get no financial benefit from this blog. My first amendment motives feel pure.

I am closer to being "outed" and/or "coming out" as time moves forward. There are certainly a lot of people/bloggers who know who I really am. I have become far less careful about keeping my name from being associated with this blog, that is for sure.

I often consider what impact being non-anonymous would have at this juncture. When I first started, I was worried that my old firm would take my new business model personally, or the local bar would react harshly to my attack on the billable hour. Perhaps I was and am still correct in this assessment.

I would also admit that, starting out as a novice blogger, I had some fire-breathing rants against specific people that I would not likely do again (boy did they feel good at the time!). I didn't know any better and blog etiquette was something I did not even know existed yet. Being anonymous gave me literary freedom to release some hourly billing baggage I was carrying around. And no one got hurt with my rants since the targets could not be traced to my name, and thus also remained anonymous. Anyway, those days are behind me.

Marketing is not important right now. My blog-based law firm web site and general business model have brought me more work than I can handle. I am adding staff slowly and carefully (3 staff, 2 virtual workers and 1 executive level litigation manager). I think a lot about what I want my firm to be at the end of my first year and thereafter. Much of it gets posted here.

Is the benefit of pure-motive all that is left? And how valuable is that to me? I wonder what extra value I get from being anonymous, if any? Sounds like a post for another day! Thanks again. I'll take you comment as 1 vote in favor of coming out of the anonymous closet.


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