“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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“Fees Fi Fo Fum”: Lawyer Fee Arrangements, Part 2 – The Billable Hour

Welcome back to the Lawyers & Liquor discussion on fees!  So last time we talked about the historical difference between the American Rule and the English Rule, which is essentially the difference between you paying someone to kick you in the nuts and someone else paying to try to kick you in the nuts.  A brief summary of our last post is as follows:  In America, lawsuits require that you bear all of your own expenses, paying the lawyer out of your own pocket even if you win, with a rationale of “access to justice.”  However, the traditional rule on most Common-Law countries, and indeed in a lot of the world, is that the loser in a civil action will pay reasonable attorneys fees for the winning side, the idea being that it’s the losing side’s fault the matter was in court at all to begin with.

This isn’t a new thing.  America deviated, as we talked about, back in 1796 in a Supreme Court decision that found making the loser pay up may actually dissuade people from going to court and asserting meritorious claims and defenses because of the specter of the money-grubbing attorney in the background.  We also talked about how that decision is a remnant of a time when it was completely acceptable to pay your lawyer with a side of beef and a fresh coat of paint on his palatial farmhouse in the country.  America, it seems, never got the message that when a ham has less monetary value and doesn’t stretch as far, a refiguring of the way we award fees may be needed.

So what does this mean for you, the lawyer or layman in the good old U.S. of A who may want to make sure at some point they see a payment on a fucking bill or, in the case of the latter, may want to know what they’re getting into when they hire a lawyer?

It means we have a sort of complicated set of “ways to pay for shit” that clients can utilize.  Which we’re going to talk about today, starting with the Billable Hour.

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When the Check Goes *Boing* – Lawyers and Credit Cards

Hey hey, it’s Wednesday here on Lawyers and Liquor and that means…what exactly does that mean anymore? I don’t know guys, I’m ankle deep in a ton of litigation stuff right now, and as I swim through the sea of stupid that is email and text message review in discovery, I find myself drifting back to a happier time. A nicer time. A more genteel era.  I am, of course, talking about the time when your clients paid their damn bills in full and on time.

Alright, so, a little background here.  My office, when I came into it, did not accept payment in any manner except check or cash.  Now, because I have a bad tendency of representing people, and because people aren’t exactly known for their tendency to carry around thousands of dollars in cash, this meant the majority of my clients paid with a check.  I know, there’s a younger generation of people out there going “What the fuck is a check? I just figured out those squares with the faces of dead guys on them last year, now you’re telling me there’s some other bullshit way of old-timey paying for goods and services?” Here’s the explanation: A check is like a paper version of a debit card that takes three-five days to hit your bank account.

You may be familiar with these if you’ve ever worked for someone that feels Direct Deposit is a tool of the devil or you have a grandmother that refuses to send cash through the postal service.

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Everything Wrong with Legal Hiring: Searching for Dick Awesome, Esq.

It seems like every now and again Keith over at Associate’s Mind, the father of LawyerSmack, and I end up focusing on the same topics for a few days in a row. This time it all comes about out of an ad for an attorney and the ridiculous requirements and pay expectations that the firm wanted met in order to hire a lawyer to assist.  I’m not going to do a lot of talking to describe the ad, because you can watch the bullshit flow over on the LawyerSmack website about the anger and frustration of the attorneys that gather around the virtual water cooler (Keith has cleaned the joint up a bit from the days when it was more of a dive bar, and even insisted that sentient whiskey glasses identify themselves in the chat by their real names and everything).  But here’s the gist of the ad’s requirements:

  1. 5-7 years of experience;
  2. 20 cases tried to a verdict, unless you’re a former prosecutor, then at least 80 cases tried to a verdict;
  3. Answers to an attorney with 30 years of experience, and;
  4. Pay is $55,000 to $90,000.

While they’re at it, they’d like to find an attorney that owns his own rainbow-shitting unicorn, lives in a castle made of gingerbread, and can melt the faces of opposing counsel by singing eldritch verses in court. I mean, if we’re going to go all out on this shit, let’s go balls to the goddamn wall crazy with it.

Because the lawyer these guys are looking for?  It doesn’t fucking exist.

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No Time To Die: Lawyers and Sick Time

Hey! I’m back! Sort of. To describe the current situation, let me put it like this: Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I left a piece of my hip on the roadside, my cognizance of situations in a bottle of painkillers, and my snark and wit in a goddamn bedside commode chair. So bear with me today as I shift uncomfortably from side to side and start talking about a recent realization that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the business of being legal: Namely, even when you’re ill, injured, or dying there’s no such thing as a day off in the life of a lawyer.

And that, folks, can fucking suck. Because, in the past, I’ve written about how the work-life balance for attorneys is a thing that we talk about, normally somewhere around the time we discuss our belief in fairies and how the government is turning the frogs gay. This is the sort of shit people search through law libraries for, hoping to take a blurry photograph of the attorney that somehow found a way to preserve his sanity and health while being reasonably successful at his job. Frankly, as my good friend Jeremy Richter pointed out yesterday, we simply are not a profession that rewards people for deciding they want to take a vacation, spend time with family, unwind with a movie, or enjoy the fucking holidays without worrying about what others may think.

And we are definitely not a profession that believes in the concept of being sick or injured and needing to recuperate.

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