Good Fees Make Good Lawyers


Stephen Gustitis and Robert Guest blog about lawyers’ fees. Robert writes, “The more you charge the less clients you get. However, those clients get personalized service and better reperesentation. Never compete on price. Compete on quality and service.”

I agree — in part. I blogged here about ethical fee-setting and the idea that it might be unethical for a lawyer to charge too little to an accused.

Stephen quotes Scott Greenfield: “The only way to defend from a position of strength is to think ‘outside the box’ to find innovative approaches that relate to the specific set of circumstances for each defendant.” Stephen adds, “To ‘think outside the box’ the criminal-defense lawyer needs time. The fewer cases he handles at a premium fee, the more time the lawyer has to address specific client needs.” What the accused is paying for when she is hiring a criminal-defense lawyer is, in large part, creativity. All else being equal, the creative lawyer is going to win more cases than the inside-the-box lawyer. I blogged about creativity in criminal defense practice in these posts:

A Childlike Mind;
More on Creativity;
and Lawyers Doing Nothing.

I disagree with Robert, however, in his implicit characterization of the relationships among criminal-defense lawyers as “competition.” If I think that a potential client will be better served by hiring a lawyer elsewhere, or even another Houston criminal-defense lawyer, I will refer the accused to that lawyer. If I think that a potential client might be better served by hiring another lawyer playing on my level, I have no qualms about suggesting that the potential client talk to that lawyer before deciding whether to hire me. It’s not a question of who is the better lawyer, but rather of who is the better lawyer for that client on that case.

I believe that every accused should have the best lawyer for her case, even if I am not that lawyer. I compete against the adversary — the government. Among the criminal defense bar, I don’t have competition; I have colleagues.

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0 responses to “Good Fees Make Good Lawyers”

  1. That’s a great way to look at who the real adversary is in the system. I’m in my last week as a p.d. and my hope is that I can strengthen the bridge between my current p.d’s office and private defense counsel by pointing out that we need to combine our resources whenever possible to compete against the real advesary, the government. I went to a seminar once where the speaker told us to consider ineffective assistance and post-adjudication appeals not as personal assaults but as another way to help the clients win. That’s easier said than done, but I applaud the attitude that we have to unite against a common enemy or be more easily conquered.

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