Paying for legal services is scary.
Lawyers can be expensive. Legal fees can be unpredictable. Expenses can quickly mount. Up-front retainers can be hard to gather.
Flat rate services are a new and rapidly trending option in paying for legal services, that can control the magnitude and predictability of costs.
The way it works is simple. The lawyer and client discuss the scope of the legal services that are needed. The lawyer presents a price, typically from a prearranged “menu” of services, and the client pays the fixed price up front. The lawyer remains on the case until the task is done, and if other tasks are required, the process can start over.
For many types of matters, this will save clients money, but more importantly, it removes the uncertainty and confusion of the process. With a flat rate service, you know what you’re spending before you commit to a certain practice, and before you part with a dime. No large retainers. No waiting for a bill. Just a lawyer who works for you to do what you have paid him or her to do.
There are some potential downsides to flat-fee billing, of course. Everything has a downside. Sometimes a flat fee can have a higher cost than the billable hours method. Sometimes a flat fee may not cover everything that a client ultimately decides that they want. And there are sometimes matters that are too inherently complicated for a flat fee to make sense. Flat fees also require that fees be paid up front, which may not be feasible for some clients and some types of matters. But for those cases, many flat-fee firms still offer contingency fees when they are needed. For most clients, flat fees will simplify the process and take away the stress and worry of not knowing what the bill will say.
I’ve decided to start offering a menu of flat-rate legal services for all of the types of matter in which I engage. Social Security and Worker’s Compensation will remain on contingency fee only, as the fee structures for those types of cases are prescribed by law, which doesn’t allow lawyers to engage in alternative fee structures. But for business contracts, letters, research tasks, traffic and misdemeanor defense, and administrative filings, flat rates will be available immediately.