FLAT FEES AND VALUE BILLING — THE END OF HOURLY BILLING
Edwards & Associates has implemented unique, customer friendly pricing for our legal services. The basic feature of our pricing is that we work carefully with our clients to arrive at a customized price for specific services. Prior to commencement of representation, our clients know the full extent of the legal resources that they will have to dedicate to their case. This serves to eliminate the extra stress that can result from not knowing how much the case will cost.
The Change to Value Pricing
We made the decision to change because we have come to realize that charging by the hour does not allow us to focus on the overall mission and results for the client. In John Derrick’s book “Boo to Billable Hours,” he states “The [hourly] system rewards the plodding, inefficient lawyer and penalizes the skilled lawyer who completes a task quickly and efficiently. After over a decade of experience working with and for clients with family law issues, we believe that clients couldn’t care less about the amount of time the attorney spends on their case. Clients care about the service and results they receive. Our method of pricing allows us to focus on your case, rather than our bill.
Most lawyers charge for their services by the hour. (We used to do this, also.) What this means is that the lawyers keep track of the time they spend on the case and then send the client a bill, based upon the time spent. A typical bill might look like this:
|1/9/12||Case consultation with paralegal regarding discovery received from opposing counsel; conference with client regarding additional documents needed.||0.25|
|1/10/12||Received and reviewed correspondence from opposing counsel regarding upcoming visitation. Uploaded letter to client – telephone call with client re: same.||0.50|
|1/20/12||Drafted Motion for Guardian ad Litem, correspondence to opposing counsel re: same; conference with client re: possible Guardian ad Litems.||1.50|
|Total Time: 2.25 x $335 per hour = $675|
Typically, a family law firm will require request an initial retainer from the client. The refundable portion of the retainer is put into a separate client funds account and the attorneys bill for their time against the retainer until it is exhausted. Once the retainer drops below a certain level, clients are asked to replenish the retainer. Many times, clients misunderstand that the retainer is not the total cost of the case, but simply an initial deposit. While Edwards & Associates has used hourly billing in the past, we believe that value billing offers a much better alternative to our clients.
Some of the many positive attributes of the value pricing method include:
Clients are Not Misled. It is clear that with hourly billing, neither law firms nor clients can accurately predict what the final cost of a case might be. In the past, even though we might warn clients that the cost is unpredictable, the client is misled into assuming the final cost is manageable because the initial retainer is often low compared to the final cost of the case. For example, attorneys charging under the hourly billing method might ask for a retainer of $5,000, but the final cost of the case can end up ten times that amount.
With the new system of flat fee and value pricing, all potential costs to the client are clear. This gives you the opportunity to better assess — at the outset of the case — if the matter is worth the resources that will have to be spent.
Shift of Goals. With value billing, the focus shifts from time and procedures spent in hourly billing to achieving your mission and your results. These prices, along with the “caps” create strong incentive to the Edwards & Associates team to act with a clear mission in mind and to get results expeditiously and efficiently.
The Cap. Edwards & Associates places a cap on the total amount of charges under the contract. The client will never receive a bill for services which is unexpected or beyond the amount set forth in the contract. If we underestimate the amount of work required, that should be our problem, not yours.
GUIDELINES TO HELP YOU ESTIMATE THE INITIAL PAYMENT REQUIRED
Here are the ranges of initial payments we require common to these matters. These are not retainers, but part of the flat fee. We charge flat fees which guarantee the firm’s willingness to be on call for your case. We also limit our caseload by number, so we are never too busy to handle your case. These are only guidelines and your case may be more or less, depending upon your specific facts and case history.
$1500 – $2500
Middle – Income Divorce with children and contested custody: $7,500 – $15,000
Middle – Income Divorce with children, contested custody and asset disputes: $8,500 – $15,000
Mid-asset case – marital estate from $200,000 up to $500,000: $10,000 – $25,000
High-asset case – marital estate over $500,000: $20,000 – $50,000
Modification of Child Support only $3,500-$7,500
Modification of Custody $7,500-$20,000
Legitimation with Custody $3,500-$7,500
TPO (Temporary Protective Order) $1,500
You should also know that we do not compromise on quality. Family Law cases must be done correctly. And to minimize the risks associated with family law cases, once your case has begun, we move expeditiously towards a settlement or trial. Unfortunately, quality and speed cost more than slow, mediocre service. We are by no means the least expensive law firm you can hire. If the absolute lowest fee is all you care about, just realize that if you hire the attorney who quotes the lowest fee, you run the risk of getting less expertise and professionalism than you and your family needs.
Out of Pocket Expenses
Most attorneys will charge for out-of-pocket expenses, which will increase your bill. When interviewing attorneys, be sure to ask if they charge for extra expenses. 9 times out of 10, they do. We do not. We do not charge for routine out-of-pocket expenses, which will save you money over the life of your case. We do not charge for mileage to get to court. We do not charge for long distance calls and faxes. We do not charge for postage, research subscription fees, courier fees or per page copy fees. We subscribe to a state-of-the-art server which allows every client to have 24/7 access to their case. We do not pass this cost on to our clients. It is our pleasure to provide you this service. We are too busy working on your case to figure out ways to nickel-and-dime you.
Award of Attorney’s Fees
Depending on the circumstances of your individual case, we may ask the Court to order the other party to reimburse you for your attorney’s fees and expenses. Please keep in mind that it is up to the judge’s discretion whether or not to grant such an award. Therefore, in most cases, we still require that a fee be paid up front to begin a case. Thereafter, any reimbursement or award by the court will be applied to your bill as the fees are received. Any excess will be immediately refunded to you when the case is complete.
Attorney’s Lien on Property
In limited divorce cases, if the parties agree that a house or other property will be sold as part of the divorce, we may choose to require the Initial Retainer to begin a case and then any outstanding remaining balance beyond the Initial Retainer can be settled through the proceeds on the sale of your property.