When Lawyers Become Innovators

One of the issues gaining interest in these somewhat demanding times for lawyers is looking at charging fixed fees for contentious matters; DLA backed LawVest has made this a key part of their offer to business clients; One partner who has been integral to already doing this for some time is Linda Jones who is the Head of the Rugby Family Department at Brethertons LLP.

Linda specialises in financial provision on divorce and has developed a passion for helping clients with complicated financial disputes involving assets such as businesses, pensions, farms and family trusts.

Therefore she would be a prime candidate for introducing a fixed fee service for matrimonial finance matters as she is looking for something client friendly and forward thinking.

She has told me that her firm, Brethertons LLP has already introduced a fixed fee service for family clients pursuing an application for financial remedies more than 18 months ago. What her team has done is to break the process down into four constituent parts and charge a fixed fee for each stage.

She says “It takes an awful lot of work to make sure the pricing and methodology is correct, together with a complete review of your working practices to make sure the work is profitable. However, it is worthwhile and we have been doing it successfully for some time.”

Unsurprisingly, she is very positive about the introduction of the service describing it as easy to sell and clients do really like it. With respect to lawyer objections on introducing fixed fees, she says”I think most lawyers are afraid of the client who takes up all of our time and the case isn’t therefore profitable. My experience is that these clients are few and far between and if one does come along then you have to discuss the issue with your client. You really need to view your caseload of fixed fee work as a whole as some cases will be very profitable while others won’t but as long as the whole caseload is profitable then it works. It is also vital to have proper case management systems in place with Junior Lawyers who can operate it, if a senior lawyer spends their time on fixed fee work then it won’t be successful or profitable.”

As a consequence, allocation of resources is integral to making the service work.

Having spoken to her she says that she is really proud of the fact that her team has been billing so well within her firm yet the service is so client friendly and innovative. It will be interesting to see how many other family departments follow this lead. Clearly this is the way forward.

Justin Patten