Does anyone doubt that the reason lawyers don’t talk about budgets with their clients is that they are so focused on getting the client signed up that they don’t want to put any impediments in the way of retention? If a client shows up in a lawyer’s office, there is a good chance that that client has thousands of dollars to spend on legal services. But Lawyers often avoid specific discussion about what it might cost to achieve a certain result. If a client only has fifteen thousand dollars to spend on legal services, but the case is one that looks like it would have to be litigated, then that client is looking at spending fifteen thousand dollars to get nowhere. In many instances the lawyer bills twenty thousand dollars before the problem becomes evident and the client indicates that they are out of money. Of course, nothing of substance has been achieved in the case at that point.
Isn’t it better for attorneys to simply tell clients up front that the result the client seeks cannot be achieved within the client’s budget? At least then, alternatives to litigation can be explored, or the client can simply make the intelligent decision to walk away from the problem. When a lawyer charges a client fifteen thousand dollars to get nowhere, the client will leave that lawyers office unsatisfied and, in all likelihood, with a billing dispute. That client won’t be coming back to that lawyer’s office.
In short, I think that it is a lot better for lawyers to make sure that clients can achieve their expected results within their budget from the very beginning of the case. This approach focuses on strengthening client relationships as opposed to simply draining the clients pocketbook of whatever money is available.