I charge “flat fees” instead of hourly rates or contingency fees. First, contingency fees are prohibited for criminal law cases. I will rarely utilize hourly rates usually in complex, lengthy, criminal cases like RICO or complex fraud cases when it is difficult to know the amount of time and effort that will be needed to resolve the matter.
With a flat fee, one is not paying for time spent, but rather for the knowledge, expertise, diligence and ability of the lawyer. You do not pay for my time but for those other intangible qualities, in the hope they result in a good outcome, based upon my history and experience. This story illustrates this concept:
A giant ship’s engine broke down and no one could repair it, so they took it to a Mechanical Engineer with over 40 years of experience.
He inspected the engine very carefully, from top to bottom. After seeing everything, the engineer unloaded the bag and pulled out a
small hammer. He knocked something gently. Soon, the engine came to life again. The engine has been fixed!
7 days later the engineer mentioned that the total cost of repairing the giant ship was $10,000 to the ship owner.
“What ?!” said the owner. “You did almost nothing. Give us a detailed bill.”
The answer is simple: Tap with a hammer: $2. Know where to knock & how much to knock: $ 9,998
Lessons to Learn
Others will say they understand the importance of expertise and experience until…
The words “it’s easy” and “that’s all”, should be set aside. Why?
Because the experience is the result of struggles, diligent work, innumerable attempts in the past, and often years of constant struggle, and a boundless number of hours.
Like the picture above: If I do a job in 30 minutes it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes.
Expertise and experience are expensive.
Let me provide two polar opposite examples from my own nearly 40 years of practicing law. Many years ago I represented a young man in a DUI case. I charged him a flat fee. Over eight years later, the case was finally resolved. The client married his girlfriend (who was his passenger when he got arrested for the DUI), had a baby, and got divorced all while the case was pending. I went to court every other week for eight years. We had two mistrials. I never asked for more money. Eventually, the State agreed to drop the charge to Reckless Driving.
On the opposite spectrum, a man in serious trouble came to me for help. He was charged with Driving with a Suspended License Causing Death, a felony. He had retained another lawyer a year earlier. They had taken the depositions and the case was set for trial in three weeks. I charged him a flat fee – it was a lot of money. I reviewed the pleadings. Knowing the law better than others, I saw the legal (as opposed to factual or evidentiary) problem the State had. I called the prosecutor and informed them of the law. Within three hours, the State agreed they had no case and dismissed the charges. This client received no refund; he didn’t request one. He was elated about the outcome. He was just a few days from a trial to determine how much prison time he would do – he walked away sighing relief.
This is why we charge a flat fee. It is about knowledge, reputation, diligence and ability. This kind of experience isn’t sold by the hour. It is earned over a long time, sold as a package, often expensive, never cheap, seldom understood.