Flat fees. Are they really fair?
Are legal flat fees really fair?
Yes, definitely. Especially when compared to hourly billing.
The hourly billing model has an interesting history. Lawyers usually justify the practice by telling clients that legal services are unpredictable, so they just have to bill as they go. But is that the real reason for hourly billing? Here’s an article from FindLaw that suggests it’s more about profit than anything else: A brief history of the billable hour.
So, are legal services unpredictable?
Uhhhh, no. Not really. not usually. Not if your lawyer is experienced, pays attention, and learns from her experience. There are some cases where the services needed are actually unpredictable – usually when the opposing party does not have a lawyer, is completely unreasonable, files multiple motions, or there are multiple defendants.
There are other types of cases, such as appeals, particularly when we were not the trial level attorney, that makes predicting the research and effort impossible on the front end, preventing a flat fee or even a staged fee quote.
Legal services are very predictable, in stages.
Think about a football game. The coach is not going to commit before coin toss to what plays he’s going to call in the second half, or when he’s going to take his timeouts, right? His best running back could be injured, or the biggest offensive tackle could be kicked out for targeting. If the passing game doesn’t work in the first half, maybe he’ll switch to a ground game in the second half. The point is, the coach doesn’t know EXACTLY what’s going to happen at every stage of the game.
But, if you’re the coach, that means you’ve been watching football, playing football, and coaching football most of your life. You have a general idea of how the game is likely to go and you are extremely qualified to adapt your game strategy depending on how things develop!
Contested civil litigation and other hotly contested matters are not suitable even to staged flat fee billing because our staged fees are not designed – price wise – to ALL be needed in the same case. There is a lot of overlap in the services and at some point if a client needs many of the services it is more fair and less expensive to bill hourly for the client. Just like at a restaurant – if you are ordering everything on the a la carte menu, at some point it is less expensive to order a combo meal!
Legal experience counts.
Experienced lawyers are like that coach, because we’ve been there and done that for so many clients before. It isn’t that hard for an experienced lawyer to anticipate how much each stage of a legal case will cost, and set fees according.
The case may settle in the first stage!
The first stage of a legal issue is very predictable. You get the case going (file, serve, respond). then you gather your evidence, talk to the client, develop a legal strategy and proposed settlement terms and kick off negotiations with the other side. You go back and forth for a while and, 60% of the time, the case is settled in those first stage negotiations.
Once you have an agreement, there will be some loose ends to tie up to get it finalized and all legal and such, then – TADA! – issue resolved. This is the first stage of litigation and the odds are that’s all the client will need.
What happens if the case goes beyond the first stage?
On the other hand, 40% of the time, cases don’t settle in the first stage and it gets slightly trickier, but not much. After all, there’s a limited number of legal avenues to pursue as you work toward either settling or getting ready for trial.
Now, like that coach, a lawyer can’t know with a high degree of accuracy before the coin toss—before the case has even started—what issues will resolve easily and what issues won’t, and what legal steps we will take if negotiations stall. But we do know the possible options, just like the coach knows all his possible plays.
So, what is a modern law firm to do?
Here’s how we do it. We set a fee for the first stage, and for each possible additional service that may or may not be required. If it turns out that a client needs the additional service, that’s what it will cost. If the client doesn’t need that service, then they don’t pay for it!
So, are legal flat staged fees really fair? Yes, because they are based on case experience, not on how much we as lawyers think each hour is worth, and they are fixed, not open-ended. Flat fees are also fair because they allow you, the client, to budget and plan for contingencies, and know what you are getting into at each stage of the litigation. The knowledge of what it will cost is invaluable input into your decision-making process as you weigh alternatives and make decisions that guide the resolution of your legal issue.
What is included in legal staged flat fees?
All flat fees include all communication with the client, advice and counsel, research and analysis, negotiations, and preparation associated with that particular service.
A client of Lion Legal Services can budget around a predictable fee structure and doesn’t need to be afraid to contact their lawyer. As your lawyers, since the legal fee is fixed, we are incentivized to work efficiently and effectively to resolve your case. It’s a win-win all around.
We Can Help
If you are looking for effective legal representation in Arkansas that won’t break the bank, look for us at LionLegalServices.com. We will help you figure out your options and what the likely realistic result is in your circumstances. Say the word and we’ll come Roaring to the Rescue!
Call For A Free Case Evaluation
Case evaluations are completely free. Call Lion Legal Services today at (501) 227-ROAR (that’s 227-7627) or Email Us to set up a free consultation.