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The Newly Independent Attorney: Billing Issues Follow Up

In a post last week I considered the issue of how newly independent attorneys can determine what to charge clients, when to charge clients, and how much to charge clients. It’s an issue every newly independent attorney entering solo practice has to address. After publishing my post, I presented the issue to the attorneys on a LinkedIn Group for solo attorneys. The advice I received was extremely thoughtful and very helpful. In fact, after reading these comments it occurred to me that the advice I’d received would be extremely helpful for other attorneys entering solo practice. For that reason, I wanted to share that advice here. Here are the highlights:

Philadelphia based attorney Rod Alcidonis, Esq. provided the following advice: “First, look up rates in your area and adjust your rates according to years of experience and familiarity with the subject matter. Speak to others if you have the contacts.”

Rod also noted: “Remember that you are new at this. You are therefore bound to undercharge and overcharge cases. It is in my opinion much better to undercharge than to overcharge a client, but it is inevitable — it will happen and you will learn from it and improve your skills. This is more art than science.”

Lisa J. Schmidt, Esq., an attorney from Detroit, also suggested checking your local State Bar’s website as many of these sites release an annual or bi-annual table with fees in different counties throughout the state. Conveniently, many of these tables break down this information by categories including experience. Schmidt also noted that you should consider your target market: “Are you going to compete on price, or take referrals from other attorneys on clients that couldn’t afford their higher retainer? Of course, costs are also important. How much do you need per month to pay the bills?”

Schmidt further advised that when considering between flat fee billing and the billable hour that you should consider your practice area: “Flat fees are common for transactional work and criminal defense, while hourly is still popular for most litigation. Of course a civil plaintiff’s attorney must also consider contingency fees. There is also a movement toward value billing in certain practice areas, which is kind of a hybrid between flat fee and hourly billing where the client pays a flat fee for each piece of the representation.”

Finally, attorney and blogger Carolyn Elefant, Esq. also provided links to a blog post she had prepared that included a series of online resources that are designed to help with determining fees, including Laffey Matrix and RateDriver, amongst others.

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