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Thursday, April 4, 2013

How much would you pay for a bad haircut? Or a bad lawyer?

I’ve recently encountered several people with serious legal problems who wanted to negotiate (lowball) my fees. Now, I will work with worthy clients on payment terms, and in civil cases will consider flexible, creative billing plans - a mix of hourly rate and contingent fee, for example. I’m not talking about those situations.

No, I’m talking about people who think they are going to beat me down to what would amount to an hourly rate of about 25 cents. Earlier this week, a man called me about a personal injury claim. He had been in a car wreck, and had soft tissue injuries - commonly known as whiplash. He wanted a board certified lawyer, which I am, and asked what my fee would be, and I told him the industry standard - 25% if the case settled before suit, 1/3 after suit was filed, and 40% if it went to trial. He told me that lawyers in San Antonio were working for 18%. I said good, go hire one and see what kind of recovery you get.

Then today, a young man with two misdemeanor criminal charges in San Antonio got snotty when I told him I would represent him for a reasonable fee, competitive for lawyers with my skills, experience and reputation. He said the last time he was in trouble in a much more serious case it had cost a lot less. I told him he should go back to that lawyer. He then wanted to negotiate, and I told him okay - the price just went up $2,000 because I can see you're going to be high maintenance and a pain in the ass.

I won’t compete on price. New law grads can’t find jobs. There will always be some lawyer out there who will take your case for rock bottom fees. I saw a sign in a hair salon one time that asked, how much would you pay for a bad haircut? It’s your freedom, or your children, or your property that’s at stake. How much would you pay for an inexperienced or crappy lawyer?

I've decided that I am going to be more consistent in what I charge clients on fixed fee cases. I respect my loyal clients, and would not feel right offering new clients a lower price. I don’t compete on price. I compete with a better product that continues to grow, as well as better service to keep my clients happy.

Remember, as some sage said:

"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten."


  1. Perhaps your biggest obstacle is getting paid in Kerrville, a place that does not produce anything, and is that it is made up largely of people winding down their lives as opposed to being focused on growth. It is only going to get worse as the economic condition of America continues to decline. There is some wealth there, but the $ resides in the retirees bank accounts and Jr. has already laid claim to those funds.

    If you want $, get out of that cesspool, and you will have a fighting chance. Otherwise, prepare to manage decline.

    1. I have developed a good law practice, but I am working toward opening a second office in Houston, where they actually produce wealth as opposed to stealing it or eating it up in the litigation machine.

    2. You hit the nose on the head regarding "eating it up in a litigation machine". Ken Cailloux and the Camp Mystic group are certainly qualified to comment on that premise. Ken Cailloux, a good guy who has been great for Kerrville, got suckered, played and filleted by some broke dick lawyers who feel entitled to live like Roman Emperors. What a sorry way to live ones life.

      Good luck and best wishes for your Houston office.

  2. How about switching to probate? There will be plenty of that in the near term. The problem is the new retirees moving to K ville are not as affluent.

    1. I'd rather dig ditches than do probate. Incredibly boring. Houston is where the serious money is.