f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 22, 2006

we need more low-fee lawyers (even in Ohio!)

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:18 pm

When a seller proclaims “you get what you pay for,” you can be
fairly certain he’s afraid of price competition — and knows his product
or service is over-priced (in relation to the skills needed to produce it
and the cost of its production).  So, I’m happy to see that Carolyn
Elefant put the spotlight on lower fees at MyShingle today, with her
discussion of The Brodsky Law Firm in New York City, which charges
$79 to $99 per hour for non-litigation matters.

Indeed, lawyer Brodsky sounds a lot like ethicalEsq: complaint billF ..
“Fact: Most lawyers are too expensive.
“The typical New York lawyer charges $200-300 per hour,
and some actually charge $500-600/hour or more.  Sad but
“We think that’s excessive (and other lawyers hate us for
saying so).  We believe that working people and small busines-
ses should not have to pay 10 to 20 times their own hourly wage
for quality legal representation.”
Carolyn is absolutely correct to worry about lawyers who seem to care
very little that most Americans are priced out of the market for legal
services.  Just yesterday, we mentioned this quote by Sol M. Linowitz,
from his book The Betrayed Profession, on the profession needing to
live up to its rhetoric of providing justice for all.
scales rich poor
“[T]here is one area where few lawyers can avoid discomfort when looking at their profession.  The rhetoric of the profession has long insisted that our system is one of ‘justice for all,’ that our court must not ‘ration justice,’ but the visible truth is that we are not living up to our professed beliefs.”  [at 145]

We have also pointed to studies showing (1) that 80% or more of the legal needs of the poor and working poor currently are unmet in the United States. And, (2) “over 150 million citizens of the ‘Land of the Free’ are legally disenfranchised” from our expensive, inaccessible court system.

priceReducedN I agree with Brodsky that most of the legal needs of the average American rarely, if ever, require skills that warrant fees that “pay 10 to 20 times their own hourly wage.”   I disagree with Carolyn’s view that Brodsky “competes, proudly and flagrantly, on price alone.”  His pitch very much focuses on the fact that you needn’t sacrifice quality to get lower fees at his law firm — although you may have to give up fancy surroundings.  In addition to many testimonials on his service and dedication, the website asserts:

“That’s 70% lower than the average law firm, even though we have the same (or more) experience, the same (or better) education, and superior compassion & responsiveness.”

Carolyn is correct, though, that more information about the firm and its principal member would be very nice.  It took me some research to discover that Brodsky is “Steve Brodsky,” who is actually Steven Charles Brodsky, a graduate of Fordham Law School, and member of the NY Bar since 1997.

Also, I’ve never liked it when solos try to make their firm appear to have more than one lawyer.  If Steve has associates or partners, he should tell us about them, too.

Of course, I cannot vouch for the quality of the work at The Brodsky Law Firm. But, I can tell you that some of the very best and most dedicated lawyers I know have charged fees far below the average in their area — and become quite unpopular with their brethren at the bar when they do.

I’m happy to hear that Steve Brodsky is making fee levels an issue and I wish more lawyers would do so.

OhioMap Oh-Oh-Ohio.  With that said, I’m sorry to have to tell you that — despite our call to arms —  the Ohio State Bar Association has recommended to the Ohio Supreme Court that the State’s revamped lawyer ethical rules be promulgated with the following Comment to proposed Rule 7.1:
4] Characterization of rates or fees chargeable by the lawyer or law firm such as “cut-rate,” “lowest,” “giveaway,” “below cost,” “discount,” or “special” is misleading.

[see Letter of Feb. 15, 2006, with attached Report.]  That’s right: discount advertising shall be deemed per se misleading. The Ohio Bar also recommended that the Supreme Court remove from the proposal of the Court’s rule-change Commission a provision that lawyers be required (for matters above $500) to communicate in writing with a client concerning the scope of engagement and the basis or rate of fees and expenses. [Proposed Rules 1.2(c) and 1.5(b)] See Your Editor’s Comments to the Ohio Supreme Court, on the above issues, here. [Note: Our efforts failed. The Ohio Bar included the ban on advertising discount fees in its recommendations to the Ohio Supreme Court, which included the provision in the Comment to Rule 7.1, which has been in effect since February 2007.]

penny sm Remember: Lawyer Lincoln Was a Bargain.  Where did all that goodwill go?

Poet-accountant paul m knows there are many things more important than profit:

mating antics
of a hummingbird
wind on the lake

shuttered room;

I enter

with tulips

one sail remains

on the old windmill

spring clouds

drifting seed fluff . . .
the rented horse
knows an hour’s worth

“mating antics” –   The Heron’s Nest (Dec. 2005)
“shuttered room” & “one sail remains” – finding the way (Press Here, 2002)
“drifting seed fluff” – inside the mirror: RMA 2005; The Heron’s Nest (June 2005)

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