We work on a contingency fee basisTuesday, September 8, 2009
At The Pinkerton Law Firm, PLLC, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that my firm covers all the costs and expenses of a lawsuit and do not get paid unless the case is successfully resolved. Plaintiff lawyers usually take all the financial risk of litigation in exchange for 33%-40% of the final recovery. My comments today deal with the other side of the bar—the defense bar who works for an hourly wage. Technically, I do not have any objection to this type of payment arrangement, if it is properly handled. However, over the course of my career, I have heard over and over again from defense lawyers that they need to “work” on the case, even if liability and damages are a slam dunk, so that they may properly “evaluate” the case. Many times the stuff we do is not rocket science. I wish those lawyers would just come out and say what they mean: “I need to bill this file for a while before we resolve this case because I have a mortgage to pay.” Sometimes I think businesses and companies are oblivious to the way this all works. Maybe if the lawyers they hired would assume some of the “risk” of the litigation, cases might just go a little differently and be resolved a bit more efficiently. Maybe the cost of litigation would go down. Maybe the number of lawsuits would decrease.
But, this not the legal practice that brings me to you this morning. What is really on my mind is the blatant, intentional over-billing by hourly lawyers. I have been exposed to cases where lawyers intentionally “padded” the file for purposes of billing. This is essentially stealing from their clients. Recently, I had the opportunity to review a billing file of Cynthia Diggs, a local family law lawyer with Holmes, Diggs, Eames, & Puhl. Upon reviewing the file, I found some obvious errors, oversights, and/or potential falsities. There was time that appeared to be double billed. There was time that appeared to be over-billed. A lay person would generally just pay the bill. My client happened to ask me to review the billing because it seemed extraordinary. Luckily for my client, I was able to review the bill before she was out the money—pure luck! Otherwise, the “bill” would have been paid and the money would have been gone forever.
I wish there was something that could be done about this epidemic problem. This is one of the many reasons the public does not trust lawyers. I am ashamed and disappointed in my peers when I see stuff like this. However, there is something you can do. If this happens to you or someone you know, call my law firm and I will try to assist you in resolving your problem. Second, call the State Bar of Texas at 1-800-204-2222 and report the problem to the Board—that will usually get a lawyer’s attention faster than anything else. But, please do not do this for harassment purposes. Make sure it is for legitimate reasons. And, talk to the lawyer first—maybe there is an explanation.
Good luck my friends. And remember, just because you get a bill does not mean you have to blindly pay it. Ask questions and be smart.