It’s insane to me how law firms do little to help clients make an informed decision on who is best to represent them.
Let’s start with law firm websites. For one, they all look the same. There’s a summary of the areas they practice, people on the team, and a highlight reel of their successes. But there’s not all that much about the firm’s ethos or the personalities of the legal team. Clients can’t tell if the lawyer they will retain will be responsive, approachable, and talk to them rather than at them.
Law firms are also bad at presenting costs. Granted, not all law firms use the same fee model but those who operate on the billable hour don’t really explain the reasoning behind their “price.” All clients assume is that senior lawyers are more expensive than junior lawyers.
If I was looking to hire a lawyer, I’d ask a few things:
- How many trials and/or hearings have you done?
- How many have you won?
- How did you come up with your fee structure?
- What is your average caseload/how many files are you currently managing?
- What do you do to run a resourceful practice?
These questions might sound a bit snarky but if I’m going to spend thousands of dollars, it’s important. If I’m comparing a lawyer who has done 20 trials and won none of them to a lawyer who has done 10 trials and won eight of them, it seems like a no brainer.
It seems bizarre to agree to retain a lawyer that has a $500/hour rate simply because he has a problem with managing his firm’s overhead.
Law firms should also be offering, as the default, a rough budget that it will cost for the matter to reach a certain stage. Of course that won’t be accurate but often clients won’t hold you to that — they simply just want to know a rough estimate. Will this cost $5,000, $15,000 or $25,000? And while unexpected events will happen, at least there’s some base rate.
Finally, some, but not all, clients will want to know if they can get along with their lawyer. Cases can sometimes take years to resolve and clients are paying thousands of dollars in fees. If you were progressive, wouldn’t you want to know if your lawyer was an ardent Trump supporter? Your lawyer may be skilled but rest assured, there are no shortage of good lawyers who possess similar values to you.
At JTC Litigation, my mission is to be as honest as possible about how I operate my practice, the reasoning behind my fee structures, and my style of advocacy. I can only reasonably manage about thirty active files. I don’t need, want or have to be a lawyer for everybody.
And I think once law firms better market their values and culture, it will save potential clients a lot of time and money. No one wants to have to switch lawyers once they’ve retained someone or shell out money for consultations with four different law firms.
Clients may not know what situation they’re exactly signing up for but they should know who they’re signing up with. You can’t trust who you don’t know.