If the lawyer is a professional in her relationship with a potential client, shouldn’t she show it by demonstrating her knowledge of the issues and the scope of the client’s legal matter by setting a proposed legal fee for the representation that she can stand behind? A firm fee in an amount where the lawyer makes a good living for the work done, and the client can count on the fee as quoted?
As a lawyer, I need to share my professional judgment and knowledge with each potential client, to educate the potential client about the scope of the problem they are faced with, whether a lawsuit or a business transaction. Often a client thinks that the legal matter is easier to handle than my prior experience has taught me that it will turn out. It is my duty and challenge to explain and make clear the scope of the issues involved. If I can do that, and the client realizes the potential issues that need to be tackled, then I should be able to price the legal services, to a reasonable degree if the scope of the services offered are not required to change.
If the client cannot see the potential issues or scope of complexity that will or could happen, then we may not get to an agreement for representation. There are times when a potential client gets sticker shock, cannot believe that the legal issue could cost as much as I offer to handle the issue for. I will lose some of those clients, but they do have a good sense of what the scope of the case is, and on occasion I have had that person come back to say that I had a better explanation than the next lawyer they talked to, so I get hired. Then I have an educated client who has faith in my understanding of the matter, and a fee that finally makes sense.
The final question is whether I have a duty to price my services so the client can afford them? For most people affordability is a choice of priorities. Is the legal issue more or less important than other expenses in the client’s life? That is a matter for the client to decide. I can change the value of the legal services, to a small extent. I am bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct, and the skills I apply cannot be reduced even if the price is reduced, but there may be things we might be able to do, such as operate on a “no deadline” basis for your work.
My experience as a consumer and as a provider of legal services is that the client who disagrees about the importance of the work I am asked to do will not agree about the important aspects of the services I provide. A potential client who wants to have a million dollar estate plan crafted for the price of a ten thousand dollar estate plan will not be satisfied with either the product or the price, if I were to agree. Don’t worry though, I won’t.