I recently found LawyerClock.com, a simple site with a simple purpose: calculating the cost of a phone call with your attorney(s) by the second based on the number of attorneys and the hourly fee. Users can even adjust to estimate how much money is being spent on “off-topic” time. (“How was your weekend?”!)
Despite trends for flat fees other types of billing, much if not most of the legal world in the U.S. still bills by the hour.
I have never handled a single U.S. trademark application filing for an hourly fee. From day one, 11 years ago, every single one of the more than 2,000 trademark applications handled by our firm has been for a flat and/or contingency fee, even those we took over in the middle of the application process. The client knows precisely what it will cost and the client can call or email with questions as often as they want related to the application. In my opinion, hourly billing is a disservice to all the involved parties. Attorneys should get paid for the value they provide, not for time it takes. Our goal should be success with efficiency.
And clients should know the real cost of something up front. And their fee, at an hourly rate, should not be tied to how many questions they have, or how many attorneys are participating in a conference call, or how much advantage of technology and computers the law firm makes. Shouldn’t lawyers have incentive to learn from their previous work, and to incorporate technologies to make their work and communications more efficient.
We believe that flat fees help us serve the goals posted in our conference room for several years, including:
- To provide high quality legal representation at affordable flat fees
- To educate the small businesses community about the value and benefits of trademark protection
- To become a leading boutique trademark law firm
To Our Clients:
- Provide great customer service
- Answer questions, provide advice, admit when we make mistakes (we’re human)
- Provide great value for flat fees
- Earn each client’s trust, and as a result their repeat business and referrals
To Other Counsel:
- To avoid needless delay
- To be respectful and cordial
- To put our client’s needs before ours
- To respect the rules of the court/Board
As A Staff:
- To learn from our experiences, and are confident in tackling new experiences
- To strive to make ourselves smarter and better every day
- To continuously increase the value provided to our clients
- To work together, and help co-workers improve at what they do
- To provide an environment for law students to learn about trademarks and small law firm practice
- We work to continuously to improve and to be more efficient, thereby providing more value to our clients
Many attorneys will disagree with our flat fee theories, no doubt. And there is no disputing that each application is unique and some may be more work and some may be less. Each client is unique too. But the overall value we provide is consistent from case to case – doing whatever we can to help obtain a registration. (Actually, the value grows over time based on our experience). The important thing is that our clients appreciate the flat fees – they have chosen us to file more than 2,000 applications – and client’s often cite the predictable fee as a factor in choosing to use – and re-use – our firm.