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Thursday, June 17th, 2010

     Many lawyers engage in practices which, upon closer examination, should cause clients with critical thinking skills to exclaim “why does my lawyer do that?!”  Some examples might strike a familiar chord:  billing “minimum” amounts of time (e.g., 6 or 12 minutes) for tasks that take 1 or 2 minutes at most; charging for office overhead items that should be part of the hourly rate; consulting with colleagues on your matter and charging you for both attorneys’ time; charging the full hourly rate for travel to/from meetings or court; taking action in the handling of your matter without soliciting your input and approval; and failing to keep you advised on the status of your matter.

    A client has every right to object to these practices and to demand fair, open and honest treatment from his/her attorney.  Unfortunately, practices like these have become so institutionalized within law firm structures that clients have come to accept them.   This does not mean, however, that clients are helpless to address these abuses.

     The time to establish the ground rules for the attorney-client relationship is at the  inception of the engagement.  When the client is served up with the lawyer’s standard form of engagement letter, he/she needs to read it carefully and object to terms that are seen as unfair or overreaching. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, lawyers who understand and appreciate that they practice in a “service” industry will be willing to negotiate the terms of their representation to accommodate their clients’ legitimate concerns.  It is only when clients assert themselves in this fashion that the traditional law firm paradigm of operations will begin to shift.

     What do you think?

Neil H. Goodman

The Goodman Law Group, P.C.