Shifting Client Expectations for the 21st Century Law Firm

Whether by simple intuition, anecdotal observations on how litigation is being handled or detailed metrics and return on investment analysis (ROI), clients believe they can do better in litigation management and cost control.

How do you defend claims or enforce your rights in a smart, efficient way and achieve quality results while at the same time controlling legal expense? How do I assure myself as a client I’m getting value for the legal expense dollar? How do I know if I spend $1 in legal expense, what I will have to pay out in a later settlement or judgment will be reduced by more than a $1?

Efforts need to be directed towards not simply controlling costs but making them more predictable. There also needs to be the right balance between legal expense and the result to be achieved. What the projected legal expense for a matter will be in the next three months needs to be addressed in the context of how one can optimize total litigation cost (the sum of legal expense, third party litigation expense, and settlement or judgment paid) for a case over the duration of the litigation. In accepting standard hourly rate engagements Brown Law LLC addresses the budgeting challenges many clients face as outlined below by utilizing the early case assessment and legal project management methodology outlined in the Practice section of this site.

Those same methodologies allow Brown Law LLC to offer fixed flat fees and other alternative fee arrangments to those clients seeking quality legal representation and results but also a stronger cost control solution that requires the firm to better align its own financial interest with that of the client.

Budgeting

Many clients feel that budgeting for future legal expense has been unreliable and lacking in predictability. Over budgeting for the resources required to take a matter to trial or to resolve a matter can incentivize or even scare clients into overpaying to settle a matter which could otherwise be efficiently and capably defended with the right case strategy and roadmap.

Under budgeting can make spurning early opportunities to resolve a matter seem ill advised. When expenses continue to mount in excess of budget, ROI expectations for the legal expense dollar diminish and potential funding problems for the litigation are created. Even matters that stay on budget do not necessarily meet ROI expectations if significant chunks of money are spent on legal activities that may only clarify a small piece of the puzzle but don’t change the big picture and therefore create no settlement leverage or increased adverse verdict risk for your adversary.

Tools | Fixed Flat Fees & Alternative Fee Arrangements

Different tools available to deliver value need to be matched to how individual cases present. Routine matters can be successfully handled on a fixed flat fee basis. Even somewhat more challenging matters can be pursued by agreeing on a fixed flat fee for the successive phases of a case: initial investigation, pleadings/motions, discovery, and trial.

At the opposite end of the spectrum cases that initially present as major complex matters with multiple parties, thorny legal issues, significant damages, and a multitude of ‘decision tree’ possibilities for the various paths and forks in the road that the litigation could take might dictate an hourly rate retention at the outset until the case can be adequately assessed.

At Brown Law LLC, following early case assessment, if a proposed litigation management plan recommends significant levels of legal expense, clients may then elect from a variety of alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) to control that expense.

Those clients with a very ‘hands on’ litigation management approach who are fully on board with the early case assessment and litigation management plan may prefer to continue with counsel engagement on an hourly rate basis.

Available AFAs such as risk collars and holdback bonus arrangements require Brown Law LLC to share financial risk and expense with clients if budgets are exceeded and/or results fall short of expectations.

Simply put, there is a commitment at Brown Law LLC that the client will have access to the right tools to help achieve their goals of obtaining both quality and value for their legal expense dollar.