Flat Fee Arrangements Promote a Winning Practice

The Practice of Law - Fee AgreementsFlat fee arrangements are amazingly liberating.

Most of my fellow litigators won’t take a case on a flat fee, either because they are concerned that they will grossly underestimate the time the case is going to take and end up with an effective hourly rate of $25, or simply because they think they’ll make more on a straight hourly basis.

I acknolwedge that some cases just do not lend themselves to a flat fee because of the unknown factors, but when you have a case with a reasonably predictable time factor, a flat fee is a fantastic way to go, not because it earns you more (although it can), but because it allows you to do more.

This may be counterintuitive to some, and probably blaphemous to attorneys that are only in it for the money, but I’m in it to win and a flat fee gives me greater freedom to do what I need to do to win.

Say you have a case that is crying out for a demurrer. On a straight hourly arrangement, your discussion with the client goes something like this:

You:  “I really think we should bring a demurrer. The third cause of action for breach of contract fails to allege performance, and here they really can’t honestly allege performance, so I think that will get rid of that cause of action.”

Client:  “So if you bring this motion the case is over?”

You:  “No, it will just get rid of that one cause of action if we prevail.”

Client:  “How much will the motion cost?”

You:  “With the motion, the reply and going to court, I can probably do it all in ten hours, so $4,500.”

Client: “So I pay you $4,500 and the motion may not work and even if it does it doesn’t end the action it just gets rid of one cause of action?”

And what the client is thinking is: “Damn attorneys, he’s just trying to run up the bill.”

With a flat fee, all those conversations are eliminated. If I think a demurrer is needed, I bring it. If I think more discovery is needed, I propound it.

And this isn’t pure altruism. Yes, I do this to win, but being free to do everything I want to do on a case may allow me to prevail on the action much more quickly, making the flat fee a winning bet for me financially.

A few tips for flat fees: Continue reading

Lawyer App of the Month – Jotbox

Jotbox app

It always seems to happen in the shower.

I come up with a brilliant strategy for one of my cases or remember something that needs to be calendared. (I read once that there is actually some scientific basis for epiphanies in the shower, having to do with ions or something.) I need to get the idea down as quickly as possible before the thought is lost, and I need to make sure I will see whatever reminder I create.

I always have my phone with me (well, not actually in the shower), so I could create a reminder or enter the idea into Evernote, but that assumes I will hear the reminder tone or remember to look at Evernote before the deadline occurs.

Enter Jotbox. I may not check my voice mail or see all the text messages that come to me, but I am always good about checking my email. With Jotbox, I just dictate a quick message on my iPhone, and with a single click the typed message goes off to my email. I also have the options to scribble a message on the screen, or even snap a photo (a picture of an empty shampoo bottle, perhaps, to remind me to buy more).

When I arrive at the office and check my email, I can then deal appropriately with all the reminders.

Incidentally, if you want, you can use your Evernote email address. Instead of showing up in your email, they will show up in Evernote.

I found Jotbox while checking out a similar program called MeMail. The latter program does not have all the same features, and is $2.99, whereas Jotbox is just 99 cents.

Better Call Saul!

The Definitive Guide to Starting Your Own Law Firm . . . Is Here!

Lawyers around computer

First tip for starting your own law firm: Don’t all crowd around one computer.

My series on starting your own law firm is now live!

This site is devoted to the practice of law, but the companion site — YourOwnLawFirm.com — deals primarily with law firm marketing. This series is in response to all of you who wrote to say, “You know, Aaron, that law firm marketing stuff is all fine and good, but I need to know how to start the law firm in the first place.” (You were all actually far more articulate.)

The series is still a work in progress, but there is already a lot of information you should find useful, even if your law firm is already up an running. I’m pretty good about thinking outside the box, but in looking back on some of my foibles, I realize I sometimes took action based on nothing beyond the fact that I thought everyone else was doing it that way. Getting a look into how someone else runs their office can often lead to improvements in your own procedures.

Ultimately, I’m going to package all of these articles into a book, but you’ll get it all here first. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

To start the series, go to the right sidebar on this page, and look for the Starting Your Own Law Firm Series. I suggest beginning at the beginning, but of course you are free to go to whatever article interests you. If you’re on a mobile device, the sidebar may not be visible, so just click on this link to go to the first article in the series.

I hope you enjoy what you read, and that you are able to apply it to your own practice, old or new.

Get a FREE Copy of the #1 Law Firm Marketing Book on Amazon

I love e-books, and manage to go through four or five per week, mostly nonfiction. How do I go through so many books in a week? As I explain in more detail here, I use my Kindle’s text-to-speech function, cranked up to two or three times the normal speed (no, there is no chipmunk quality), and listen to books whenever I am commuting, showering, dressing, etc.

The truth is, especially when you read multiple books on the same topic, even a really good book may offer only ten or twenty really good, new to you takeaways. As I’m listening to an e-book at warp speed, I can easily absorb the broad concepts, and if a really good takeaway pops up, I can slow it down and repeat, or have Siri send whatever I want to remember to Evernote.

(Did you know you can have Siri on your iPhone add notes to your Evernote account? Here’s how. Of course you can dictate directly into Evernote, but the Siri method allows you to do it hands free. No distracted driving for you! The next version of iOS will make this even better, because Siri will obey your commands without you even having to push that one button to get her attention. And if you’ve seen that episode of The Big Bang Theory, you know that Siri is a real woman answering your questions in real time.)

But feeding my brain is not without cost. Even though we live in wonderful times where e-books can be had for a fraction of the price of their printed brethren, going through four or five books per week can still be a costly addiction. Continue reading

How to Sign a PDF Without Printing and Scanning

So you’ve received a PDF document by email that you need to sign and return, or you’ve sent one to your client to sign. How do you accomplish that task?

Do you print the PDF, sign the document, scan the document, and then email it? If you do, you are being unnecessarily inefficient. There is an easy way to open and sign that document without ever printing and scanning, and it’s probably already on your computer.

The free Adobe Reader includes multiple ways to get your signature on a document. It will create a signature for you just from text, but if you want your real signature on the document but just can’t navigate turning your signature into a digital image that you can drop into the document, Adobe Reader even lets you hold your signature up to your computer’s webcam.

Go here for a detailed article on how to use Adobe Reader to sign a PDF.

Dollar Photo Club

How To Get Back a Closed Tab

I might be the only one who does this, but I was very excited to learn this shortcut.

When using Chrome (this also works for Internet Explorer and Firefox), I soon accumulate so many tabs across the top of the browser that I can’t tell what’s what. I then start closing tabs and occasionally realize that I just closed the tab with the case I found after a long search session. To bring back a closed tab, just hit Ctrl-Shift-T and voilà, it’s back.

Best Client Call of the Week

Not the one in question, but can you name the country this flag represents?

A “potential client” called this morning to discuss the case she has going in a foreign country. In order not to offend any of the residents of that country by repeating what she said, I won’t identify the country except to say that it is a small, non-English speaking country that I had to run through Wikipedia to confirm that it is in fact a real country.


She called to ask a question about a very specific procedural issue in her case. Picture getting a call from someone in Transnistria, asking you the deadline for opposing an application for a writ of attainment, and whether the opposition can be served by yak. That was the nature and specificity of the procedural question.

As I always do when I get a call from someone about a case that has nothing to do with California, I asked why she called me.

“Because all the attorneys are crooks here, and you can’t trust anything they say”, she said.

So the next time you hear someone say something disparaging about attorneys, just remember that our reputation is far better than that of the attorneys in this unidentified country.

Why I Love Being a Lawyer — Taking Bank of America to the Woodshed

In case you missed it, there was a video posted on YouTube a few years back, consisting of a music video entitled “United Breaks Guitars“. Singer, songwriter Dave Carroll was sitting in a United Airlines plane while his beloved Taylor guitar was being loaded in the luggage compartment. He looked out and saw the baggage handlers throwing his guitar case, and upon landing, he discovered that they had broken his guitar.

The moment he saw his flying guitar, he reported the incident to the flight crew, but he did not report the broken guitar to the right person at United within 24 hours, so when he finally managed to navigate to said right person, his claim was denied.

Carroll used the best weapon at his disposal to express his frustration with United. He wrote a really catchy tune and created a music video about the incident, which at last count has been viewed by just shy of 14,000,000 people. He followed with a second and third video, but those have been viewed a paltry 2,000,000 and 600,000 times. Here is the first video, and I bet you’ll find your foot tapping:

The way United handled this disgruntled customer was a object lesson on the dangers of hubris, and that reminded me of my case against Bank of America. Continue reading