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Legal Fee Management & Litigation Consulting


Our 22nd Year  
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Quotes from:

What Lawyers Don't Like to Talk About
(And How to Loosen Their Tongues)
June 10, 2008

By James Burnett & John Ward

© Copyright 2008

...“You see a lot of lawyer-client relationships that go bad,” says John Toothman, whose consulting firm, the Devil’s Advocate in Great Falls, Virginia, specializes in resolving disputes between attorneys and clients. “But you also see a lot that don’t. And most of those times it’s because there is good communication.”

To open up communication between you and your lawyers, consider this advice from Toothman and other experts: ...

To get the best information for doing this, “you need to speak up,” Toothman says. “You may not know the law, but your business instincts can still serve you well in dealing with your lawyers. It’s up to the client to bring things up and demand answers.”...

“Let’s say that a client’s been sued,” says legal consultant John Toothman, “and lawyers investigate and come back to the client and say, ‘Look, this thing you wrote to the other company, we don’t have a defense against it—you’ve basically already lost the case.’ They’re saying that the client screwed up.” And what will the client do next? “Most will get a second opinion,” says Toothman, “because either they don’t believe what the first lawyer told them or they think that if they find the right lawyer, he or she will have a different opinion about the case. So they shop around.”...

Billing is a topic lawyers hate to bring up with clients. “One thing that’s different with legal billing than almost anything else, especially if you’re paying by the hour, is that you’re really writing a blank check. You don’t know how much it’s going to cost you, and the attorney may not know either,” Toothman says. “Even some pretty experienced lawyers don’t have much incentive to figure out, ‘Okay, the case is worth a million dollars, so we shouldn’t spend a million defending it, right?’ There are plenty of examples where it cost more to defend somebody or to win a case than the client lost or made.” Partly that’s due to the law of momentum—a company gets into the process and realizes it’s made a bad investment, but doesn’t want just to write off what’s already been spent. “So you throw some more money at it,” says Toothman.

Another source of friction over legal bills is the somewhat ineffable nature of what lawyers do. “For many businesspeople,” Toothman says, “looking at a legal bill and the pile of paper that the attorney has generated to earn it, it doesn’t look like it should take that much time, and it becomes hard to explain what the value of that effort was to the client.”  ....



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Last update: 01/07/15

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Our 22nd Year  Civilian's Guide to Lawyers (the Blog)

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