Ethical Fee-Setting


Legendary Houston criminal-defense lawyer Percy Foreman reputedly said, “You can represent your client, or you can represent yourself.”

This should be every criminal-defense lawyer’s prime directive: help the client. When we have professional decisions to make, we should always ask ourselves: “how will it help my clients?”

Some might argue that it is necessary for a lawyer to put his own interests above the client’s on at least one occasion: when the lawyer is setting his fee. At that time, they would say, the client is better off paying less and the lawyer is better off receiving more. I disagree.

A lawyer who gets too little money to handle a case is going to have to make up for it elsewhere — either by taking on extra cases (which hurts all of his clients because he doesn’t have enough time to spread around) or by doing without in some area of his practice or his life. Either way, representation is going to suffer. So it’s in the client’s interest as well as the lawyer’s for the lawyer to be well-paid.

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