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Law Firm Sets Up Niche Practice to Dispute Other Lawyers' Fees

Manchester, England-based law firm Boote Edgar Esterkin has figured out a novel way to generate more revenue. Instead of charging clients more for the firm's services, Boote Edgar has created a new practice specialty going after other law firms for overcharging, reports Crain's Manchester Business. The service, which is called ab8, will help clients either by opening formal negotiations on behalf of customers who believe they’ve been overcharged by their law firms or, in some cases, issuing proceedings against firms.

Marc Yaffe, the associate who will run the new service, describes its origins:

“We found that as law firms battled for new instructions, a pattern emerged of solicitors providing low quotes to clients at the outset of a matter, only to bill far more than that quote when the work was completed. We realised that there was a definite market for advice in this area,” he said.

“There are strict rules governing how solicitors provide information to their clients, especially in relation to costs. Solicitors have a duty to provide their clients with the ‘best information possible’ at the outset of any matter, and this ought to include a clear and concise explanation of the total costs involved.”

Yaffe plans on taking a hard line to keep other lawyers' fees in check. For example, he described a recent case in which a client was initially quoted an £8,000 fee by a solicitor, only to receive a final bill for £26,000. Though Yaffe notes that it was clear that the solicitor had done more work than the original estimate reflected, he was bound by the £8,000 quote and wasn't entitled to recover any more.

Boote's concept sounds like a great practice niche for firms in the U.S. as well. At present, the only similar U.S. practice I'm aware of that deals with excess legal fees is The Devil's Advocate, which according to its Web site, focuses more on non-litigation-related fee issues such as review and audit of law firm bills for large corporate clients or negotiation of retainer fees.

What do you think? Could fighting excess legal fees be a viable practice niche here?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 21, 2009 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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