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It is Not About The Hourly Rate - It is About Client Service

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

The discussion about legal costs continues. Lord Jackson is due to publish his report later today on his proposals for re-shaping the legal costs environment.

Overall there has been some separate discussion about the solicitors hourly rate within some of the legal press and national press.

The solicitors' hourly rate has received criticism, not least of which because it can promote inefficiency. The central flaw is that it can encourage waste.

Nevertheless despite its flaws, the hourly rate will continue, not least of which because interactions with clients and opponents are unpredictable.

At Human Law Mediation, what we offer are a series of different blended fee plans and solutions.

At all points we offer estimates of projected fees. Due to the unpredictability of litigation in particular these are estimates; the key is consistent client engagement and keeping the client informed of his or her options and what to do. 

For certain legal work we charge an hourly rate on a conventional basis. As we have low over-heads, our fees are competitive. 

For mediation work, we charge a fixed fee with the possibilty of charging an additional hourly rate if aditionnal time is required.

For training work, we provide a fixed fee.

Certain clients who place a stronger emphasis on costs authorise a strict budget which is not exceeded without express prior authority.

So, we offer a series of options depending on the client, the circumstances of the case and the work required. 

However, is this discussion really THAT important?

As a lawyer, mediator and trainer the more I have done this work, the more I have realised that what the client wants above cost control and competence is exceptional client service and the ability to be authentic with the client.

But where do we go for inspiration in our quest to serve our clients?

We can look outside to some of the great work being done on blogs. One of the best law blogs is written by my friend Dan Hull, of What About Clients?

He asks:

  • True service to clients: are we delivering this and, if we aren't, can we talk about why?
  • Do we lawyers have a “we versus them” or adversarial mentality about clients when our main focus should be doing the job we promised to do and protecting clients from third parties or bad events -- the real “them” -- which would harm our clients?
  • Has lawyer camaraderie evolved into such clubiness that we have lost sight of the client’s primacy?
  • Do we regularly lie to and slight our clients? (Professionally, is that really any different than cheating on our spouses?)
  • Are there built-in barriers which prevent true service to the client? (Are contingency fee arrangements with clients a built-in conflict of interest which can never be justified -- even in the name of “access to the court system?” When we represent insurance companies, are we fair to the real clients -- the insureds?
  • Will we ever put the interests of the insureds first?)
  • Are lawyer jokes funny to us because they sound like the truth?
  • Has the overpopulation of markets with lawyers forced us into a free-for-all?
  • Do many of us wind up selling clients short because we are disillusioned or burned out?

These are fundamental and deep questions.

Beyond looking externally, we should look to ourselves.

What exactly are we trying to do as lawyers and mediators? What brought us into this role? Now that we are here - What can we do to help?

These are some of the other questions I ask myself as I search for the best outcomes be the parties lawyers, lay-clients or recepients of training. 

Justin Patten Solicitor, Mediator and Trainer