Tuesday, July 19, 2005

That Dog Won't Hunt


The June 2005 issue of the ABA Journal features an interesting little piece which addresses the problems solo attorneys face when they become overwhelmed by cases they either don't like or don't understand. "Spotting the Losers" suggests that solo attorneys practice "legal triage"by dividing incoming cases and clients into three groups:

  • Genuine Losers
  • Misplaced Cases
  • Troubled or Difficult Cases
By organizing cases in this fashion, the author claims that solo attorneys can enhance their practice and quality of life while avoiding uncomfortable client encounters and even the possibility of malpractice claims down the road.

I cannot argue with the notion of triage or its usefulness and applicability to these situations. In particular, the author insightfully details how triage can assist solo attorneys to avoid the difficulties an attorney can face when he sits on a file for too long, thereby letting the statute run before giving the client a chance to get a second opinion.

However, I did feel a shivver as the author touched upon the issue of referral fees:

“Wait,” Bill said. “I’ve got a question: If you send a case like this to someone else, do you ask for a referral fee?”

“Some do,” said Angus, “but not me. I’m a lawyer, not a broker. I only take money for work I’ve actually done that benefits the client. That does not include finding another lawyer. Period.”


The rules in most states are pretty clear regarding the circumstances under which an attorney can charge a referral fee, and most will say that attorney has to provide some sort of "value added" benefit in order to do so. But the attitude: "I am not a broker" is a new one on me. Start-up small and solo practitioners are under enough pressure to make ends meet. Consequently, I can't imagine anyone hoping to stay in business past the first six-months being in a position of turning down the opportunity to take a referral fee merely on the grounds that it offends his legal/political sensibilities.

How do you handle referral fees?

Do you practice case/client triage? How well has it worked for you?

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Article. If I only knew how to spot an Albatross, I would be on my way.

By the way, any good articles on the do's and don'ts of marketing for a small firm or solo?

10:02  
Blogger Unknown Attorney said...

Yes - check out the link at the end of "Brand X" on 7/22.

23:42  
Blogger JLP said...

Referrals are tricky. In the financial planning field referral fees aren't a good thing. I am a fee-only financial planner. My job is to tell my clients what is best for them. If there is an area that I am not qualified to address, then I need to refer them to someone I trust will take care of them. I don't think, nor should I expect some sort of fee - whether it be monetary or a recriprocal referral - for that referral.

That's my opinion. Each person must do what they are comfortable with as long as it isn't breaking any laws.

JLP

AllThingsFinancial

23:58  
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19:31  

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