By Jimmy Singh
It’s no secret that lawyers have a reputation for charging their clients excessive fees, and often clients are shocked when they receive an exorbitant bill from their lawyer.
What many clients don’t realise is why legal bills can be so extraordinarily expensive.
The truth is, many private law firms in Australia require their individual lawyers to meet strict budgetary goals in order to maximise profits for the firm.
This means firms generally require their lawyers to bill clients a certain number of hours per month or meet financial targets – for example, a firm might require a lawyer to bill several tens of thousands of dollars of work to clients per month. The precise budgetary target will often depend on the lawyer’s seniority and experience, and the firm’s expectations.
Having previously worked at a firm that imposed these types of financial targets on their employees, I can tell you the burden causes plenty of problems for both lawyers and clients.
Firstly, financial burdens a source of great stress for lawyers, as they require them to meet specified budgets every month.
If they fail to meet these budgets, harsh consequences might be imposed on the lawyer – their salary may be docked, they may miss out on a promotion, or, in some cases, they may simply be let go.
The increased stress and pressure of budgetary targets may therefore affect the quality of a lawyer’s work; causing them to take on as much work as possible in order to meet their monthly quotas, when in reality they do not have the time or resources to dedicate to each matter.
Obviously, this has a negative impact on clients – without the time to effectively prepare for each matter, clients may not get the best possible result.
Furthermore, communications between the client and the lawyer may suffer, as the lawyer simply does not have the time to manage all of their cases effectively.
Financial targets may also create an incentive for lawyers to inflate prices to meet quotas.
This means that clients may be ‘ripped off’ by lawyers, who might exaggerate the amount of time that they spent on a case or inflate costs to maximise their profits.
This means that many clients receive an excessive bill that is not justified by the quality of the service.
Of course, this is completely unethical, however it is a practice that is known to occur in many private law firms – so much so that it has become accepted as the norm in many practices.
Financial targets may also severely compromise the results of a case.
Requiring lawyers to meet budgetary targets creates an incentive for them to drag matters on for as long as possible in an attempt to maximise their fees.
This means that in many cases, lawyers don’t fight to have charges dropped or withdrawn because the possibility of a matter proceeding to trial means that lawyers have an opportunity to make more money.
Not only does this waste both the client’s and the court’s time and resources, but it also means that many clients won’t get the best outcome as they will proceed to a jury trial or a defended hearing for a matter that can be resolved much earlier in the process.
The competitive culture that exists within these law firms also compromises the interests of clients – for example, in many private practices, lawyers are so competitive that they work independently on a matter without consulting other lawyers in the firm.
This means that clients do not benefit from the full range of skills and expertise in the office, with many issues often overlooked by lawyers who refuse assistance from more senior lawyers, or those who may have the relevant specialisation or experience.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers is very different because we don’t impose financial targets on our lawyers.
This means that we don’t face the stress of meeting monthly budgets, and can better focus on achieving the best outcomes for our clients.
Unlike many firms, our practice actively promotes getting charges dropped – we invest the time and effort in fighting for cases to be dropped before they proceed to trial to reduce the stress faced by clients.
This can be achieved by taking measures to obtain all relevant materials early, then carefully scrutinising those materials and writing detailed letters to the prosecution highlighting problems and pushing for withdrawal.
We also engage forensic and medical experts early on to undermine the prosecution evidence – which can also lead to the withdrawal of cases.
By actively focussing on getting our clients the best possible outcome, client’s fees are minimised and cases are finished early as there are no incentives to overcharge clients or drag out cases.
This culture is reflected in the very high proportion of cases we get dropped.
Furthermore, we have the time and resources to invest into each and every one of our clients.
We know that court processes are often stressful, so we invest our time and resources in understanding, listening and communicating with our clients so that they fully understand their options.
We work as a team, sharing our skills and knowledge with each other so that clients can take comfort in knowing that they are getting the best advice and strongest representation in each case.
Finally, our practice is built on mutual respect, integrity and trust.
We are a results-driven firm with a proven track record of getting our clients the best possible outcomes.
We believe that our track record of getting cases dropped is second to none.
We also have a very high success rate of winning defended hearings and jury trials when cases go that far. And if our clients wish to plead guilty, of obtaining section 10 dismissals or conditional release orders – where no conviction is recorded.
This results in higher levels of client satisfaction, which we believe is much more important than meeting financial goals.