Yeah, well, there’s different kinds of arrangements you have with fees with attorneys. And just for ease of reference I’ll say there are three main categories:
One is contingency: Where the attorney gets a share of whatever is recovered, and that’s usually associated with personal injury cases.
One is flat-fee: Where you say here’s what it’s going to cost and that’s it! That’s what it’s going to cost. And that’s usually when you have something like a will, so somebody comes in and you say, “OK, we can do a will with a trust and a guardianship and so on,” and they can give you a flat fee charge for it.
And then there’s hourly: And the reason attorneys have to do hourly charges sometimes is because a lot of the cases that come into us… we have no idea how much time it’s going to take.
In fact, I’m working on a lease right now. And when a client brings in a lease, and this one’s about 25 pages, I can read through that lease and note the comments and concerns I have in maybe an hour and a half. Two hours. And so they say, “OK, well that should cost me two hours of your time.” But then what happens is I don’t know whether that client’s going to have a lot of questions about my comments, whether that client’s going to want me to explain every objection I have to the form of lease that the other side has presented to me. Whether my client is going to want me to negotiate some of those points, all of those points, none of those points, with the other attorney. I don’t know the other attorney yet. Is he going to be the kind of guy that’s cooperative and wants to resolve things or somebody who just wants to beat a dead horse because they’re getting paid by the hour or whatever their motivation is. So a lot of the work we get in our corporate and real estate and non-PI practice, is work where we honestly don’t know how much it’s going to cost because we don’t know how much time it’s going to take.
And Abraham Lincoln had a saying where he said, ”A lawyer’s time is his stock and trade.”
And that means that really what we have to give to people is our time… We just have to do it that way sometimes. And you know people can say, “Well $300 an hour, or $400, or $500 an hour is very expensive.” It is expensive. And I wish it wasn’t so expensive. But to maintain and establish a law firm where you have very capable paralegals and typists, and word processors, and IT guys, marketing guys, bricks, mortar, a building, do all the CLE (continuing legal education) that you’re supposed to do, and all the computers and equipment, library, and research, and on and on, it’s very expensive. And unlike some professionals, like if you work with an engineer, they will charge you hourly for every single person down to the runner ($10 an hour).
So a lot of the work we get in our corporate and real estate and non-PI practice, is work where we honestly don’t know how much it’s going to cost because we don’t know how much time it’s going to take.
In most law firms like ours we charge for the attorneys hourly and for the paralegals, but we have got to cover all those other expenses based on those hourly rates.
So it is expensive and unfortunately because of the nature of the practice of law and the complexity of it, and all the technology that’s now involved, attorneys just are unable to practice unless those hourly rates are up there high enough to where it will cover those expenses and give them a reasonable standard of living.
– Rulon D. Munns is an experienced real estate attorney and managing shareholder of Bogin, Munns & Munns, a full service law firm with offices in Orlando, Clermont, Kissimmee, Orange City, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Melbourne, Gainesville, and Leesburg, Florida. He welcomes questions and comments regarding the above and can be reached at [email protected]
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