In an anonymous letter obtained by The New Lawyer, a law firm senior partner explains the firm's costs and procedures to a client. The full letter* is published here.
Dear Client no 8563752311934733-1221-9774B **,
Re: Our Engagement
I am writing to you only because I am being made to by some bureaucratic regulator.
Thank you for your instructions because it now means that I can reach my monthly fee budget and I will not be subject to judgement by others in the firm, but will clearly be in a position to judge others.
You will be pleased to know that I will personally look after your matter-unless something more profitable or interesting pops up-and you can be assured of service commensurate with the quantum of the fees you will be paying us. At various times I will have a team of serfs-lawyers, paralegals, graduates and whoever else maybe struggling to reach their budget- assisting me. Please be assured that regardless of whether I will be actually working on your file or not, I will make sure that some of my time is added to your file to reflect my level of importance at Gotcha & Upya.
I am somewhat shocked and disappointed that you have asked me how much this matter is going to cost you. As you would appreciate (or you would if you were partner at Gotcha & Upya) it is impossible for us to be precise as to what your legal fees might be because we charge you solely according to the time we spend on your matter and (der) I donâ€™t have a crystal ball so I donâ€™t know how much time we will spend until we actually spend it. And anyway if I did give you a fee up front you might hold me to it.
Regrettably however I am compelled by those *%[email protected]! regulators to give you an estimate, or range, of the legal fees you might incur with us. Based on what you have told me to date, I can with some confidence state that your fees are unlikely to be any less than $20,000 (in fact I can positively guarantee they will not be any less than $20,000 looking at my fees month to date) and are unlikely -but not impossible- to exceed $500,000. I trust this is helpful to you.
Everyone at our firm is proudly assigned an hourly rate and you are very fortunate to be dealing with me who, as a senior partner, can command extraordinarily high charge out rates. As the senior partner I can guarantee my rates will always be higher than anyone else in the firm.
For your convenience we break down your hourly rate into 6-minute units of time and charge you for each 6 minutes or part thereof we spend on your file but please be assured that we will never spend less than 2 hours doing anything on your file. We rarely sleep here at Gotcha & Upya and often 24 hours per day we will be thinking about your matter and how to achieve the best results for us- I mean-you. With advances in technology it is now even possible for us to think about your matter for more than 24 hours per day.
You will be pleased to know that here at Gotcha & Upya unprofessional staff-I mean support staff- are used to a minimum (except to pick up my dry cleaning). This means that you will have the luxury and confidence of knowing that even the most meaningless tasks, such as photocopying, single finger typing and freshly brewed coffee will all be attended to by a qualified practitioner. This is, I assure you, not just because we are a little light on for work at the moment and we can charge you outlandish hourly rates, but because we want to provide you with a truly personalised service.
Again for your convenience we will bill you monthly. Actually we will raise an internal tax invoice for you on the last day of each month(notwithstanding when we actually do work on your file) but sometimes we may not get around to sending you the tax invoice until a few days/weeks/months later and as such I apologise in advance for the nasty letters/ phone calls you may receive from those awful people in our credit department who maybe unaware that the invoice may have not been sent to you (although they should be used to that by now). Just ignore them-I do.
You will also note on our tax invoice that it states you are required to pay our account in full within 14 days. No client has ever done that yet so please also disregard and pay us whenever you feel like it.
I urge you to read the attached 34 page Costs Agreement (which we at Gotcha & Upya are quite proud of). Should you have any questions at all concerning the Cost Agreement please contact my p.a. between the hours of 1am-2am on the full moon and she will be delighted to assist you.
P.S. I neglected to inform you about our firms most profitable practice area-Disbursements. In addition to our professional fees we will also charge you unprofessional, er I mean nonprofessional fees, such as photocopying, printing, binding, telephone calls, taxi fares, tea and coffee (espresso), lunch, dinner, red wine, chocolate biscuits, use of our meeting rooms, the cost of our Christmas gift to you, and any other expenses we can get away with passing on to you. Of course we do not just pass on the cost of these items to us- there is always a healthy mark up applied.
* letter obviously fictional
** client fictional too, obviously.
Original author anonymous.