“Fees Fi Fo Fum:” Part 4 – Fees Flatter Than a Pancake

We’ve reached the end of the road in the discussion of fee arrangements popular among attorneys here at Lawyers & Liquor.  So far we’ve covered three topics: that impending death of indigent representation with the proposed defunding of the Legal Services Corporation, the soul-sucking nature of the billable hour, the questionable concept of contingent fees, and now we’re moving on to the final major fee agreement you, as a new lawyer or a pigheaded client, may encounter in the day-to-day practice of law.  This is the unicorn of all forms of fees paid for litigation purposes, the one that makes battle-hardened attorneys look at you askew and wonder the weight of the anvil that must have struck your ass firmly on the head.

Of course, we’re talking about the amazingly unprofitable, but always requested, Flat Fee Agreement.

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“Fees Fi Fo Fum”: Part 3 – My Contingent Fee and Me!

Welcome to Part 3 of talking about fees here on Lawyers & Liquor, where we endeavor to provide the best in profane prose about the legal profession to both the laity and those who are damn near laity, the baby lawyers and law students.  Over the past couple posts, prior to our brief break for a sojourn into the land of the furry animal people on Friday, I’ve been talking my way through lawyer fees and answering the age old questions of rapping clowns everywhere:  “How the fuck do they work?”

We started off recognizing that there’s really no system outside of the rapidly dwindling support of the government through the Legal Services Corporation for the poor and downtrodden to obtain legal representation in their civil matters.  We moved on to discuss the unmitigated evil that is the billable hour, and how it sucks both the souls of associated and the wallets of the clients they represent.  Now we’re going to move on to the third portion of our rather obvious discussion of the many different fee agreements out there, and the one that most people who call your office obviously want you to use: “We don’t pay unless you win!”  Or, as we know it professionally, the “Contingent Fee Agreement.”

And we’re gonna talk about why that still isn’t a good solution to the issue with there being massive underfunding in legal aid and isn’t really a good business model except for a few restricted areas of practice.

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Involuntary Pro Bono: When Clients Ignore Invoices

Here’s a rule of thumb to keep in the front of your mind during every client interaction:

Clients are scum that will take every opportunity to screw you over.

Clients will walk off with your invoices unpaid, taunting you to come after them. If you do come after them, clients will file unfounded bar complaints that you have to defend. If you sue a client for past-due fees, you’ll draw the ire of the local bar association because you didn’t submit to their fee-dispute mediation program. If you try to retain a client’s file to try and force the payment, they file a bar complaint. At the end of the day, trying to collect from a client who wants to avoid paying you is a nightmare for the lawyer, to the point that many of us look at how much is owed, figure it’s the cost of doing business, and write it off.

By the way, those written off fees?  They don’t count towards your pro bono requirements if you have one.  Ain’t that some shit.

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Champerty Champions: Betting on Litigation

I think I mentioned before that I’m the son of a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney.  Essentially, growing up, this meant my family’s fortune was pinned onto the misfortune of others.  Paying a water bill for my father wasn’t a matter of billing time so much as it was a matter of hoping someone got bit by the neighbor’s dog or t-boned by a semi truck.  There were Christmas’s where a wrongful death suit meant a new Nintendo, and there were nights where a bad jury verdict meant the family was playing Uno by candlelight and filling up empty gallon jugs with water until the utilities were turned back on.  Feast or famine was the name of the game in those days, and all because of the concept of a contingency fee.

Which is why lawyers, like shitbirds of all stripes and colors, turned to lenders to meet their normal expenses.

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