The Ballard Law solution: I want to provide fast, efficient, accurate service to my clients without worrying about whether it will hurt my bottom line. I also want my clients to know right up front what to expect in terms of fees. That is why, whenever possible (which is most cases), I use value billing. Value billing is a flat fee for a particular service. After a free initial consultation to understand your situation, I can give you a flat rate for all the work we have agreed I will do for you. Then you know what to expect and I can focus on providing quality service instead of making sure to record the six minutes I spent answering your email.
The old, standard fee structures: Most lawyers for the past however many decades have utilized two primary types of fees: hourly and contingency.
Contingent fees are typically used in personal injury cases or occasionally employment law cases. The client does not pay a fee if the lawyer does not collect a judgment or settlement from the other party. If the lawyer does win money for his client he will generally subtract his costs (court filing fees, for example) and then take a fee of one-third of the awarded amount. Each side bears some risk. However, I do not typically take on cases where contingency arrangements make sense for me or the client.
Hourly fees are quite simple in theory: a lawyer records all time spent working on a case, recording in one-tenth of an hour increments. The problems with hourly fees are many, but in particular:
- It cuts off the lines of communication. If a client knows she will be charged $30-50 for a brief phone call, she may withhold important information from the attorney in order to save money.
- It is a disincentive for the attorney to be efficient. Why should I draft a document in two hours when I can take three hours and get paid 50 percent more?