New York, March 28, 2019 — “America is one big law firm,” one client, not insignificant in his profile, remarked recently, only half jokingly. Clearly, in this country of laws, law and lawyers play a major part. But the legal profession itself is also undergoing major changes, including revolutionary developments with blockchain, legaltech, new service models and artificial intelligence. Despite these technological advancements, however, many aspects of the profession remain unchanged. Courts are as overburdened with cases as ever. And I do agree with my trial lawyer colleagues who emphatically assert that the skill of the trial lawyer will never be replaced by machines. I think the same is true for the skill of a good general counsel, who acts as a quarterback navigating the web of legal issues faced by businesses and entrepreneurs, especially those involved in international business.
Clients are, however, searching for solutions and alternatives to the traditional law firm billable hour model, as they often report being tired of wasted hourly fees without results or legal budgets skyrocketing beyond foreseeable expectations. For these reasons, we do believe that the monthly flat rate arrangement will continue to take on a more common trend in client-lawyer arrangements. We do offer, a flat fee model as an alternative, for example, in situations where clients need a minimum of 10-50 hours of work per a given month, where the rate varies depending on the amount of time involved. We have found it to be effective with clients searching for assurances that their legal spend will not exceed their budgets. Recent articles in the professional publications have also stressed the need for more flat fee arrangements. See, e.g., https://www.law.com/americanlawyer/2018/12/24/general-counsel-need-to-seek-flat-fees-more-research-finds/
Such a flat fee monthly retainer is more practical for transactional corporate work, rather than litigation, which is less predictable in terms of the amount of time spent on a case. It provides for assurance to the lawyer that funds will be there to cover the costs of his work and time, and yet it provides assurance to the client that the fees will not exceed a particular amount. Clients do continue to ask for flat fees in litigations also, and it is feasible to do, but one needs to be very exact in analyzing the type of case and the amount of time involved. And not all clients keep their promises to pay the suceess fees they agree to, but we remain hopeful that all will keep their word.