Dirty Secrets About Legal Fees

Don’t get me started about legal fees. Not because I would talk for hours, but because I’d really just as soon not talk about ’em at all. Legal fees, charging ’em, collecting ’em, are the second most stressful aspect of my legal life. If you want to know the most stressful, it’s having to deal with assholes who are abusing the legal system for personal greed, at the expense of my clients. That, in turn, contributes to the stress of legal fees, since right from jump street I’m believing that in a just world my client shouldn’t be put in the position of having to pay thousands of dollars for legal fees in the first place. I should do my part to make it a just world, shouldn’t I?

I was near dumbfounded when I saw this Dirty Little Secrets article about what some lawyers actually charged their clients for. That kind of stuff is so foreign to anything I would even think about doing, that I wanted to believe the clients were just making it up out of spite. But, I’m afraid that’s probably not the case. So, it got me to thinking that maybe I’m way out of line, in the opposite direction, about how I charge fees.

As opposed to double billing, I’ll actually discount my billing if I think something I spent ten hours doing could maybe have been done in less time if I would’ve worked faster or harder. There’s that popular joke about the 50 year old lawyer who dies and is greeted by St. Peter who says the lawyer looks awfully young, inasmuch as he must be at least 150 according to the time he’s billed his clients. I won’t have that problem. St. Peter will be looking at my time records and asking how I thought I could get by only working four hours a day, like I must be some sort of sloth.

I mean, who can’t work a little harder or a little faster? How many lawyers actually even turn off the clock when they take a 20 minute break from the brief they’re working on? I guess not many. Hmm, maybe I could afford to join a gym if I would think about a case a few times while working out, so I could bill out the gym time. Any guesses how many lawyers actually do that?

Well, in the end, maybe my approach is one of the reasons that once I have a client, I generally have a loyal client. But, I wonder, is that because I’m me, or because I’m cheap? Maybe it’s time to start finding out.