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Why My Appellate Practice Is Different

Some large law firms will hook you with a senior lawyer’s credentials, while having much of the real work done by a junior associate. Not here. I read the entire record, I select the issues most likely to result in a successful appeal (which can be the most important part of the process), I conduct the legal research, and I draft the briefs. You’ll never have to guess who is working on your case.

Even if a senior litigation partner in a big firm handled your appeal personally, a big firm with lawyers who have as much appellate practice background as I do (and there are very few of those) would charge at least $1,000 an hour for appeals. I don’t. Here’s why.

First, I don’t have to justify my existence to the management structure of a big firm that mostly does things other than appeals. Those other things are usually much more profitable than appeals because they require more lawyers and take more time. So to justify their existence, lawyers in the “appellate department” of big firms have to manage appeals so that they use more lawyers and consume more time than they actually should. In other words, that setup encourages inefficiency. My practice is intentionally structured so that I am rewarded for being efficient. So my charges are much more reasonable.

The second reason, closely related to the first, is that big firms want to have big firm surroundings – fancy offices, lots of staff, and so forth. Frankly, to handle appeals, a lawyer really needs only a computer, an internet connection, and a comfortable place to sit (and lots of experience – but that should go without saying). Even a comfortable place to sit is optional. I am not aware of any scientific study showing that a huge lobby or an expansive view out of a high-floor window enhances the quality of an appellate practice. So why should the client have to pay for things like that? I have a computer, an internet connection, and a very comfortable place to sit. I don’t have or want the other stuff that goes with a typical big firm practice (including layers of management and associates to keep busy), so my clients don’t have to pay for it.

Finally, the biggest reason I don’t charge over $1,000 an hour for appeals is because hourly billing for an appeal is not usually the best fee structure for the client. In most appeals, the client pays a fixed charge for our legal services because I have developed a method to predict the lawyer time likely to be required for an appeal based on several key factors.

If the cost of an appeal is so easy to predict, why don’t the smart lawyers in the big firms use fixed fees too? Believe it or not – and I’ve studied appellate legal fees fairly extensively – they have never bothered to figure out how much they could charge on a fixed fee basis. That’s not because they don’t have the information at hand; it’s because they don’t want to. Most firms are stuck on an antiquated hourly billing regime that large firms developed in the 1950s. That fee model became the standard (although that has recently begun to change), but hourly billing on all matters never really made much sense for the client to start with. I don’t think it makes sense for my clients, so I don’t use it when I can offer something better.

If you would like to find out first hand more of what makes my appellate practice different, please contact me.

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