The issue of attorney fees is something that often clients, and lawyers, don’t like to talk about but this is an important issue. This is an issue we discuss in a simple, upfront way when we meet with you. We say “meet with you” because we do not give quotes over the phone or over email. We’re not sure how any lawyer does this unless what the lawyer is doing is a “commodity” or is doing “lawyering by word processing.”
Our approach is to meet with you, find out about your unique situation, and then give you our proposal on what we can do for you and the exact amount this will cost you.
Let’s talk about attorney fees in a couple of different ways.
First, let’s talk about the amount. Some attorneys advertise themselves as the “low price” leader — similar to Wal Mart. Others charge an average amount. Finally, there are a few who charge at the higher end of the spectrum.
Our firm is at the higher end. We don’t apologize for this — instead we do everything we can so that our clients feel they are getting wonderful service that far exceeds the amount of money paid in fees. When possible, and usually it is, we can show the amount of money being saved or created and compare that to our fee.
For example, you might pay us $10,000 for Medicaid planning advice and documents after we show you that by doing this you may qualify for Medicaid 30 months earlier than not following our advice. If the average cost of nursing home is over $5,000 per month, then the $10,000 spent on our fee results in saving over $150,000 in assets that would have been spent on nursing home care when it was not needed.
Another example is you may pay us $5,000 for some planning and advice which then allows you to qualify for VA Aid and Attendance (Pension) so that you receive over $2,000 a month in veteran benefits. This is over $24,000 a year. Over $120,000 in a five year period.
You may ultimately decide that you want the cheapest lawyer or a cheaper lawyer. That is fine. We only work with a select number of clients and we do not want to work with anyone who is looking for the cheapest lawyer. There are lawyers for all types of clients and if you have spent any time on our site, we think you will know if we are the right type of lawyer for you.
Second, we also do not negotiate on our fee. It is not wrong to negotiate but we have chosen to learn about your situation and needs and then we give you our price based upon your unique situation. You either reject it or accept it. We have always been willing to give the names and contact information of other lawyers who do similar work who we think might be cheaper if you find that our price is a problem. This rarely happens as our clients appreciate the extensive amount of information we give away and our willingness to explain, in plain English, what your options are and the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Third, we rarely use an hourly rate but instead will give you a fixed or flat fee. We don’t know anyone that likes an hourly rate except for lawyers who, well, like hourly rates.
Our hourly rate is $400. We have had cases where our hourly rate ends up in the six figures. Those were special cases where it made sense to our clients to hire us that way.
But for the vast majority of our clients, it makes more sense for us to look at your situation and then give you a set dollar amount as the fee. This way you can look at the benefits and look at the cost. Then you will see what makes the most sense for you. If you hire us, you will know that is the best move for you. Even if you decide not to, it will be a good decision based not on a guess of “how many hours will the lawyer charge me” but upon an actual set amount.
Several points on this. If we do a fixed or flat amount and you decide to make changes, then this will increase the price. Just like if you hire a contractor to work on your house and half way through the project you decide to change where to put a wall, there will normally be some expenses with this. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind as long as you know what the extra cost will be.
Also, we sometimes do things in stages. It might be $3,000 for the first stage and then you will have the information to make a decision on going with option one or two. You will then know the price for each option going forward.
Here’s the bottom line. We love helping people. And we enjoy making money. This firm is our business and how we support our families. We believe anyone who does good work should be paid for it — whatever that work might be.
The only way to know whether the price you are paying is a good price or not is based upon the value you receive. Value means money saved or generated. It means peace of mind. It means understanding what you are paying for and being comfortable that you have a “counselor” and “advocate” who you can turn to for questions and advice.
You will know after we meet if the way we do business and treat you is worth more than what you are paying us. If it is not, then don’t hire us. But if you decide that you are receiving much more in value than what you are paying us, then you can feel confident and comfortable in hiring us.
We invite you to meet with us to see how we can help you and we wish you the best of success.
John Watts and Stan Herring