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Law Firms Advised to Try Discounted and Alternative Fees

Posted Oct 28, 2008 8:43 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law firms that survive the troubled economic times will be willing to discount fees and try alternative billing arrangements such as success fees.

That was the message of a panel discussion held last week by the defense bar group DRI, the National Law Journal reports. The story recounts comments by panelists that included New York City law firm consultant Bruce MacEwen and Sheryl Willert, managing director of Williams Kastner in Seattle.

MacEwen said law firms are facing rate pressures and offered this example: A company fired its outside law firm after its $1,000 an hour billing rates became public. MacEwen said billing is becoming highly itemized, and Fortune 500 companies seeking to scrutinize their legal tabs are appointing task forces to go over the bills line by line.

Willert said she is more frequently offering her clients the option of paying success fees—which involve a lower hourly rate and a bonus for success in a case.

The panelists also advocated paying lawyers an up-front retainer for legal advice rather than after-the-fact hourly fees.

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