A Convenient Retainer
When it comes time to serve a client, I take delivery of a total expected fee based on an estimate of total hours I expect to spend on a matter, and I put it all in a "retainer," or lawyer's trust account. This is essentially a deposit. I send my client a monthly statement and take only the amount that I have earned out of this retainer. When I reach the end of my service with a client, I pay back any amount that remains. I do not take a “flat fee.”
The Case Against Flat Fees
“Flat fees” end up costing the average client more in the long run. Flat fee agreements often come wrapped in complex lawyer jargon that puts clients over a barrel when typically predictable cases take an unexpected turn. Clients end up effectively paying an attorney double the amount for an hour of honest work than what the buyers' market would dictate. In fact, the flat fee agreement rarely provides individuals with a bargain.
Earning Your Trust
I believe that clients just want to feel secure that their resources will match the implementation of their goals and not stretch out to infinite demands from a lawyer unless the situation becomes significantly different than described to me at the time of the retainer agreement. I do not believe that clients go lawyer-shopping in order to get a flat rate bargain that will become some carte blanche for legal services that stretch out to infinity.
Opening Lines of Communication
When it comes to reliability, I feel it is best measured with communication. If you look at the Texas Bar Journal monthly list of lawyers who had disciplinary problems, inadequate communication between a lawyer and a client is the root of most of those complaints. I encourage communication by not charging for phone calls that last under five minutes and, when communication goes beyond an update, I do not round up. Rounding down is the least I can do to show respect and empathy to my clients.
Cost-effectiveness has been the core of my brand and will continue to be. Ultimately, my goal is to help clients solve problems. I donate a portion of my work as an attorney through charitable organizations to help people with overwhelming problems, one of which would be a lack of resources to pay for legal counsel, representation, or mediation. I do not, however, provide such “pro bono” counsel through this website.