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Our 22nd Year  
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Legal Fees:  Law & Management

A book for lawyers and clients by John Toothman & Professor William G. Ross

440 pp cloth ISBN 0-89089-068-4 $85.00
Click here to download the Preface in Adobe Acrobat format

published by Carolina Academic Press
also available through  Barnes& and (which is substantially slower)


From Carolina Academic Press:

    Legal Fees: Law & Management concisely and logically summarizes the law that governs legal fees in plain language anyone can understand, but with the legal references that professionals need. The second half of the book provides a unique insight into the management of lawyers and their fees.

    Important topics include selecting the right lawyer, preparing fee agreements and budgets, monitoring bills for common problems, and suggestions for resolving legal fee disputes.

    Written by two leading authorities on legal fees, the book bridges the gap between the law that governs legal fees and practical techniques for managing those fees. John Toothman is the founder of The Devil’s Advocate, a unique legal consulting firm specializing in managing litigation and legal fees. William Ross is a professor of law whose previous publications include The Honest Hour, which addresses legal fee ethics. Both authors are nationally recognized experts in the field, having written dozens of articles and testified as experts on legal fees.

    The book is valuable both for attorneys and clients. For attorneys, the book provides guidance for avoiding common problems and to help firms market themselves as client-friendly. Many attorneys are surprised how different the law relating to their treatment of clients is from other commercial relationships - by law, clients receive special protection from their lawyers. For clients, the book explains and organizes an otherwise confusing area of the law and provides practical solutions to real problems.


From Accounting & Financial Planning for Law Firms:

Legal Fees: An Incisive New Guide for Lawyers and Clients

By Joe Danowsky

The topical terrain of legal fees has more slippery slopes than a ski resort. In their prior writings, John W. Toothman and William G. Ross have individually helped many lawyers and clients gain a clearer view of many of these slopes and firmer ethical footing on them. Now fans of both writers will be delighted that they’ve combined their talents to produce an analytically impressive yet highly readable new book on the subject.


Treatise readers could not wish for a livelier combination of authors. Both are Harvard Law graduates, experienced litigators and skillful writers. The author of Trial Practice Checklists (West 2001), Toothman is an award-winning, fiercely funny essayist. ... Ross, a master of systematic and circumspect analysis, is a wry-humored law professor and a scholar with wide-ranging interests (ethics and Constitutional history among them). He authored the landmark study The Honest Hour: The Ethics of Time Based Billing by Attorneys (Carolina Academic Press, 1996). That still relevant book begins with an intriguing history of legal fees and then meticulously explores the labyrinthine problems and paradoxes of legal time-based billing.


Legal Fees, the new collaboration, summarizes many of the authors’ earlier findings and goes on to evaluate current approaches to keeping fees reasonable. The book addresses two broad areas of legal fees. First, it summarizes and critically analyzes the legal professional requirements and restrictions governing attorney fees. ...

Second, the book surveys and again critically analyzes modern methods for managing legal fees. Although oriented primarily to corporate law departments, the law firm perspective is covered as well. ...


As the authors observe, fees make legal practice possible, funding even pro bono work; yet fees are also the most exasperating source of lawyer-client friction, and the abuses of some billers elicit public hostility to the entire profession. In addition to addressing the now widespread concern with billable hours, the authors give needed scrutiny to alternative fee-setting methods. .... 


Well Balanced Book on Timely Subject

Many clients and other non-lawyers believe that lawyers milk the legal system for every conceivable financial advantage. As an attorney in New York City for the past 7 1/2 years, I believe most attorneys are ethical, but a small percentage give the entire profession a bad name. Toothman and Ross' book details efforts by judges to punish the lazy, incompetent or unethical lawyer by disallowing fees while allowing diligent, competent and ethical lawyers to collect when a client seeks to avoid payment.

The opening chapters of the book focus on the unique nature of the attorney/client relationship and how this relationship impacts the allowable fee. As trusted advisor to the client, the attorney has an obligation to charge only a "reasonable" fee. The lawyer is not free to strike any deal with a client. This is because the client relies on an attorney not just to protect his rights in a litigation or transaction, but to properly define the scope of what needs to be done. The book goes through some examples where courts reviewed engagement letters and bills to judge whether the resulting fee was "reasonable."

The book also details a group of questionable billing practices. There are many creative ways in which some lawyers add dollar amounts to their bills. Among the billing practices discussed were charging clients for firm overhead, charging senior lawyer time for simple or clerical tasks, and charging a client for recycled work (i.e. work done for another client in a similar matter). Thankfully, most courts are not hesitant to clamp down on such abuses. The later portion of the book gives clients tips on how to manage fees and detect abuses, and lawyers advice on how to manage their cases to maximize productivity and avoid unethical billing practices.

My only modest criticism is that the authors spent less than two pages discussing class action fees.... Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book to lawyers and clients alike.


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Publications include: To Get Paid, Get Reasonable, Trial Practice Checklists (West Group); Legal Fees: Law and Management (Carolina Academic Press), CGL, Civilian's Guide to Lawyers, Client Bill of Rights, Client-friendly billing agreement, hourly fees.

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