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Comments

Tim Evans

I am learning this lesson the hard way. I have, up to now, charged a flat fee for most of my services. However, I have realized that I am not making enough money charging a flat rate.

I have no doubt, as you said, that it would work well if I was doing more transactional work than I am. Right now, most of my cases are divorces, and as anyone who has ever been divorced or works in divorce law knows, simple divorce is an oxymoron. I may be able to make it on a flat fee if I had a higher case volume, but that's not happening right now.

What you said about taking effort to pull yourself up is soooooo true. I've seen so many potential clients balk at my fees that it's scary to try to raise my fees (or switch to hourly billing). My wife even encourages me not to change because she thinks some fees are better than no fees.

I think I'll do like I read in some book -- put a picture of my kids in front of me when discussing fees.

Corinne A. Tampas

Years ago I rented office space from a group of well established attorneys. I was a newly minted, unsure lawyer. I thought that I could not possibly garner the hourly fees that the more experienced attorneys in that office made, and to a certain extent, I was correct.

However, when those other attorneys heard what I was charging per hour they practically tore up my lease and tossed me out the window for all the reasons you give and then some: they were worried that my much lower hourly rate would reflect poorly on them since we all worked out of the same office.

Then, they gave me some excellent advice:

Keep your rate high. If you feel that a particular project is not worth what your hourly rate and hours dictate, then cut your billable hours. Your client will be impressed that s/he has this very capable attorney (manifest by that hourly rate). More importantly, your client will be impressed that you can get the job done in fewer hours than expected.

An added bonus is if your practice is the type where you have repeat clients, you will not have to raise your hourly rate anytime soon. Other than not returning telephone calls, nothing upsets a client more than being a loyal client during an attorney's lean years, only to have that attorney jack up rates as the attorney becomes more experienced.

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