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4 Examples of the Money Side of Law

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Summary: As clients fear the impending expenses of legal representation, your job as a lawyer is to explain the benefits beyond the costs.

4 Examples of the Money Side of Law
 
  • If you oversee a law firm, there may come a time when you are faced with a client who will ask you why your lawyers’ fees are so expensive.
  • This question can either stump you or illuminate you to explain the real reasons not just your lawyers, but all lawyers are expensive.
 
If there ever was a service that is more misaligned with the common strata of America, it is law.

The reason this is true centers on the fact that at some point in any person’s life – no matter what their income is – they will require some sort of legal representation that invariably will be expensive.

And while this may be the case for a number of practice areas within law – anything from criminal to corporate, family law to real estate law, etc. – the truth is not every client who comes to your law firm seeking legal help will be able to afford your prices.

Be that as it is, legal representation can be very expensive, and that’s really just par for the course.

Lawyers expect to be paid handsomely for their representation – as they should.

And sure, you can go through the tried, true and now more likely cliché reasons of:
  • Traditionally, it’s an expensive profession.
  • More often than not, lawyers have enormous debt from laws school and undergraduate college that they’re trying to pay off.
  • Many cases are more complex than they seem, thus a lawyer has to spend a lot of time (i.e. billable hours) preparing most legal cases.
  • This is what the going rate is for legal representation.
…But do you believe such explanations truly resonate with a client?
  • From a professor to a plumber, all professions can be expensive; that doesn’t mean the high costs of your lawyers’ legal representation cease to be hard pills to swallow.
  • After all, your law firm’s clients may themselves have college debt.
  • Extended billable hours and any job that requires overtime can be construed as one in the same to your clients and in some cases, not necessary as long as anyone, lawyers included, efficiently perform their job.
In short, the above explanations will more than likely not have an effect on a client who is concerned about what your firm’s legal representation will cost them.

What your clients are instead demanding is that you affix a true value to your firm’s legal fees. When asking about billing your clients will want none of the canned answers that usually crop up when a lawyer’s fee is criticized. What they want are tangibles and processes and how both can result in successful representation of them by your lawyers.

Given this, the following text lists four valid reasons lawyers and their managers should give clients valid explanations for their fees.
 
  1. Lawyers do and will perform.

It is completely understandable – or should be understandable that a client might be apprehensive about signing a lawyer to a retainer. In their mind, they may think that by signing an attorney to a retainer might mean month-after-month of invoices for billable hours when in essence, your clients can’t recall needing any legal work. They don’t like it and it has them quite antsy.

Your job: To calm that client down by first telling them that many clients put their attorneys on retainer. And all that really means is the client already has an attorney who is familiar with the client’s background and/or case.

Being on retainer also means that lawyer will always be ready and present for the client. They are, in a sense, reserved by the client and are expected to be available whenever the client needs them.

Explain to your client that retaining an attorney will alleviate the stress of finding an attorney should any legal issues arise. Another advantage is there will be very little discovery, as the lawyer who is retained will already know the client’s history, personality and business dealings.
 
  1. The value of having a lawyer on call can be intrinsic to any legal ordeal.

According to an article called Why Are Lawyers So Expensive? I’ll Tell You Why published on The Lawyerist.com, it is unfair to compare the value of a lawyer to that of a company like Apple or Uber.

Firstly, law is a different type of commerce. It is more of a protective service than one where money is exchanged for a product.

The biggest value here is a lawyer who is put on retainer will always be ready for what a client requires because they already know the client, the client’s interests and business involvements.
 
  1. Lawyers can take the hits and punches.

This is why lawyers are hired and put on retainer: To absorb the ire, directives and demands that a person without an attorney would otherwise have to bear with.

A good, established lawyer has probably seen all the tricks that occur within his trade. He knows when an opposing client and their attorney are not fair or truthful, and realizes the impact that can make on a client.

More importantly, an attorney put on retainer is an attorney who is always ready and up to date with whatever trouble a client may find themselves in.
 
  1. Yes, you can negotiate lower legal fees, but beware of the consequences…

As with any service in life, the less a client spends, the less they get. A good example would be a cable or satellite subscription in which “packages” are offered to subscribers. Lower-end packages will have standard television channels, while higher-end packages will allow a subscriber to tune into a wider variety of entertainment, sports or other news channels.

This needs to be stressed to legal clients in the same way; the less they pay, the less legal representation they receive. In other words, as The Lawyerist.com article states, “To reduce the cost of legal services past a certain point, you probably have to reduce the lawyer’s obligation to the client.”

This isn’t to say that there is no room for negotiation when it involves a lawyer’s fee, however bartering for legal representation is not always done, nor is it any more effective for the client’s needs.

As the article states: “Our obligations flow from our rules of professional conduct, most of which we cannot ask a client to waive. All we can do is limit the scope of representation — generally called unbundling legal services. Unbundling can make a lot of sense for some things, but it is not a panacea for lowering the cost of legal services.”

To that end, there really is no lowering of costs when it comes to legal fees. There instead is a lowering of preparation time and attentiveness to a client’s representation. With that, a lawyer who accepts a lower fee from a client will never be as readily available to that client as one who accepts the standard fee the lawyer usually charges.

Conclusion

To be sure, lawyers’ fees are daunting; they can even be overbearing. But if a client can absorb the cost of good representation the outcome for that client can be invaluable.

Clients, particularly those who balk at the cost of their proposed legal representation, need to know this. It isn’t as if the lawyers in your firm want to charge as much as they are. Their fees, honestly, are based only on the quality of representation a client wants.

And to drastically lower that cost on the lawyer’s end of the retainer, as The Lawyerist.com article explains, is to fundamentally change what it means for a lawyer to be a lawyer when he or she represents a client.

Again, the less a client pays, the less they are fully represented, if represented at all. It’s as simple and cost effective as that.
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