I had the privilege last week to join a panel with three of Indiana’s finer lawyers on the issue of Alternative Fee Agreements: The Ethics of Legal Billing. With me were Judge Mike Witte, now the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, Patrick Olmstead, of Hoover Hull, and a member of the Legal Ethics Committee, Steve Badger, of Bose McKinney and a member of the PLEADS section.
The highlights from my perspective included
- the stats from the Altman Weil group showing that lawyers who are proactive in leaving hourly billing are seeing the same or more profits at about 70%, but those who are reacting to the client are seeing less in profits at about 60%;
- the case discussions that give comfort to lawyers that flat fees, however designed, are appropriate so long as they are reasonable when agreed to and when the case concludes, are earned, and are understood by the client;
- changes to the fee that benefit the lawyer must be handled in accordance with the rule;
- and the court’s intention that as a fiduciary, the lawyer must put the client’s interests in fees in the proper perspective.