In the 80s, I practiced in Decatur, Georgia located next to the courthouse. It was an old fashioned courthouse practice where I could walk to the courthouse and take care of matters quickly. There were no specialists, just well-seasoned lawyers (with a few lawyers many of us preferred they would find another career). Most of the attorneys had been practicing for decades and I learned so much from these lawyers that I could spend the rest of my career passing along their advice. They were the type of men that didn’t stand down from a fight, were not afraid of a jury, could try any case, set up a business, give sound advice and be home for dinner. There was not time crunch for billable hours, just an attitude that a problem needed a resolution or a negotiation needed to be complete. There was always the concept that a closed file is the best file.
One of these fine gentlemen shared with me about charging for the value you provide. A client had come into his office about a felony criminal case. He quoted his fee and the client said he wanted to pay less. This attorney’s response was I didn’t know you wanted a cheap lawyer; you need to go hire him. The client actually shopped around and found a lower fee. The client ended up in jail and called the attorney to straighten out the mess that was created. He paid three times as much as he originally would have to achieve the same results.
The practice of law has since changed. Advertising by lawyers and an over regulated society has resulted in number crunching and clients large and small fee shopping. The hourly billing is used by lawyers to create a product that frequently de-incentivizes results. Clients often seek cheaper costs without consideration of value. Many review the economic realities of litigation and settle quickly using the cheapest legal fees they can find. This more times than not makes the client a target for frequent lawsuits. It frequently results in a less than desirable result for plaintiffs.
Value in the attorney/client relationship comes in many forms. Is this attorney willing to understand you and the situation? Is this attorney responsive? Does this attorney have the skills necessary to perform the task? Are you willing to pay for that value? You get what you pay for and can go cheap in using online services, but ultimately you will pay more in the long run. Ask yourself the question, do you need an adviser and a skilled trial attorney or even a skilled negotiator. Will this attorney be your attorney for life and be the lawyer that you can rely on day in and day out?
We offer service on demand but also provide three additional bands of service which include a priority client, private client and general counsel. Each have their benefits with plans tailored to client’s needs.
Managing legal costs should never be equated with finding the cheapest car. Your attorney should be your most trusted confidante.
Stephen Fuller is the managing partner of Fuller Sloan LLC and has practiced in business litigation and consulting for 37 years and has over 25 years representation of the founder of one of the largest sit-down casual restaurants in America. For more information, email Mr. Fuller.