The recent disclosure of one law firm’s emails seem to reveal over-billing or churning of cases, which should be of concern to every business lawyer. An individual’s reputation is an integral component of a career. Firms can develop reputations based on the actions of only a few of their lawyers. Additionally, the profession as a whole can develop a reputation based on the actions of only a few firms.
Our firm offers various fee plans to eliminate the incentive to over-bill, but also works to establish the right professional culture. Putting ourselves in our clients’ shoes is one of the key tools to keep litigation costs—both financial and psychological—to a minimum. If we were the client spending our own money, would we want our lawyer to do X?
Communication is another key component to having reasonable fees. Legal fees should be subjected to a cost benefit analysis. Lawyers should not suppress or evade communications with clients (and, if possible, opponents) about fees. We can’t control the outcome—what a Judge or jury will do—but we can analyze the risks and benefits for our clients. Additionally, we can set the expectations of our clients and then seek to exceed them.
If each lawyer and firm takes this advice to heart, the reputation of the profession as a whole will take care of itself. Lawyers and firms that debase themselves and our profession, however, should be ostracized and sanctioned.
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