Q: How successful has your implementation of alternative fee agreements been this year, and how many of your clients have actually taken advantage of these alternatives? [name withheld]

A: Our clients are accepting our alternative fee options at a slow but steady pace, and we are on schedule to implement alternative fee agreements into the core of our business in accordance with our business strategic plan. Most lawyers and clients across the country are recognizing that alternative fee agreements are not necessarily good or bad on their face. Many factors go into determining whether alternative fee agreements are appropriate under given circumstances, and when they are most likely to create the "win-win" situation as intended. These arrangements will only succeed when we have a true "partnership" between our law firm and our client. When we do not appropriately communicate with our clients about fees, we run the risk that one of us will be dissatisfied when the bill is issued. We have found that alternative fee agreements do not work where one party is insisting on getting the "deal of the century," rather than a fair and appropriate case-specific fee agreement. I believe that in a successful fee arrangement, both our client and our law firm should be satisfied with the fairness of the overall bill given the services that have been performed.

As an example, if a client wants and needs the best and most sophisticated services available to navigate a legal problem, no one will be happy if the client elects to retain less knowledgeable and experienced lawyers at bargain-basement rates. The client will not be happy with the level of quality and sophistication of the services, and the lawyers will not be happy with the resources they must devote to travel outside their comfort zone and satisfy the client. The reverse is also true; a daily routine legal task should not cost the client thousands of dollars. Under either of these scenarios, the appropriate value is not received by either side. In a successful fee arrangement, with appropriate legal practice management techniques in place, both the company and the law firm can be satisfied with the overall bill given the value of the services rendered.

We understand that if we are not responsive to our client's business objectives, it may raise a concern on the part of the client as to the value received for the fees that are paid. As a result, we seek to create a symbiotic relationship with our clients, striving to understand our clients' concerns as we develop the appropriate fee arrangement that is consistent with our mutual goals while also providing clients with the assurance they need in an already volatile business environment.

The enhanced level of risks and rewards that are exchanged between our firm and our clients is a matter for open and transparent discussion on each individual matter. The various alternative fee structures we utilize provide enormous flexibility to our clients in their efforts to achieve cost certainty and avoid unwelcome surprises in their invoices. To answer your questions, so far this year approximately one-third of our clients have shifted to an open acceptance of alternative fee arrangements. More important, not a single one of our clients that has taken advantage of our alternative fee structures has rejected the concept and asked to return to a traditional hourly billing method. When considered in this light, we view our alternative fee program as a tremendous ongoing success.

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VanFleet Law Offices

The VanFleet Law Firm has a strong history in Commercial Litigation, Banking Law and General Business Law matters. Founded by Joseph VanFleet in 1998, the practice has grown and flourished over the years thanks to the talent, expertise and tenacity of the VanFleet legal team. Today, it provides counsel to a broad range of local, regional, national and international clients.

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