Welcome to my first post on Ted’s Legal Blawg. My focus will be the many issues around legal fees. What are “fair fees” to the client and to the lawyer and law firm. I believe that setting legal fees is the lawyer’s primary (as in earliest) duty to the client and to the law firm.
First a word about me. A lawyer since 1978, I have practiced in a small city in Northern Indiana. I have also been setting legal fees for legal services for over 30 years. Much of the time I did a poor job. I charged fees based on an hourly rate or a flat fee, based on a likely hourly rate.
Lawyers deal with clients in a fiduciary relationship. This means that there is a need for honesty and for transparency in dealings by lawyers with our clients. The client must know that the lawyer is working in the best interests of the client. The method for this is to have a clear discussion of legal fees, up front, before the client completes the engagement of the lawyer.
The lawyer is normally far more experienced in legal matters than the client (some corporate clients do not fit this generalization). As such, the lawyer is the expert in the law, the procedures of the court system or other resolution system that will be used. So, it is the lawyer’s responsibility to be the expert in handling all the legal issues for the client. Whether those issues are the drafting of an estate plan, the handling of a family crisis, or pursuing a lawsuit for the client, the lawyer is the person with the ability and opportunity to think clearly about the fees that are involved.
We will talk about this in the days to come. Join me in the discussion