In the ongoing saga of the cottage industry of vultures seeking to eke a point or two out of the middle of that huge stack of money that flows to the “legal sector,” a new but curious entrant has appeared: AttorneyFee.com.
What makes this stand apart from the bunch is that there are no fees involved, either for lawyer or client. Unlike the mass, they have no finger in the pie, and humorously state:
We believe in doing well by doing good. Our mission is to expand access to legal services by providing consumers with the highest quality information about the affordability and availability of attorneys in their communities. We are confident that if we pursue that mission faithfully, we will create tremendous value for consumers and attorneys alike, and eventually find a way to pay the bills.
My guess is that they have a better business model than they let on (such as build the eyeballs and sell advertising), but still, it’s refreshing not to have a business claim to exist for solely humanitarian purposes while reaching into someone’s back pocket.
That said, what’s the point of this new enterprise?
In the four years since I graduated from law school, I noticed that 70% of the people who called my office were inquiring about the same two things: (i) how much do I charge, and (ii) when am I available. The receptionist in my firm used to spend a good chunk of each day just answering the same questions over and over again. These calls prevented her from doing other work and created an unnecessary drain on office resources. I realized that if my firm could find a more streamlined way to communicate with potential clients about affordability and availability, then we could cut down on frivolous inquiries, save significant administrative resources, and actually get more clients in the process. This insight is what lead me to create AttorneyFee.Beibei Que, Esq
Founder of AttorneyFee
As is often the case, one person’s experience in the law doesn’t necessarily scale well to others. While this may be true for the practice of a young lawyer, or the practice of a particular niche, it doesn’t reflect either the profession as a whole or the concerns that my clients have. But then, perhaps criminal defense isn’t part of the mix?
When you need a criminal defense attorney, you need a criminal defense attorney. You can’t possibly put a price on your freedom, or the freedom of your loved ones. Having said that, the fact that you value freedom doesn’t mean you should let yourself get ripped off. You owe it to yourself to find an attorney who is both a competent provider of legal services as well as a fair and compassionate human being. In order to do that, you must first develop an understanding of how defense attorneys generally charge for their services, and what is considered a “fair price”.
For the most part, defense attorneys charge on an hourly basis. The reason for this is that there is no real way to tell, in advance, how much time or effort will be involved in any given case. After all, criminal defense work is, by its very nature, contentious. And whenever there is dispute, there is always unpredictability, because you never know what the other side will do (in this case, we’re referring to the prosecutor).
Uh, no. Somebody misinformed Beibei Que, as criminal defense lawyers do not usually charge on an hourly basis. Almost never, in fact, because they would never get paid. But then, if they didn’t, this concept wouldn’t apply at all.
AttorneyFee, as with others in this cottage industry, focuses exclusively on the “cost-conscious consumer,” which misapprehends the most significant part of the equation, competence. If you’re buying widgets, price is all you need to know. Lawyers are different, though becoming less different by the minute from what I see. Listing lawyers by hourly fee alone is meaningless, if not misleading.
Not a pretty site, nor one that comes off as particularly sophisticated, but these aren’t attributes that bother me. What does is that the information provided is worthless, whether this is what potential clients want or not. Rather than pander to ignorance, inform and educate.
Not here. This is pandering, pure and simple. If it’s all about money, then this is all they need to know. And the cottage industry feeds this misguided demand, as if lawyers are fungible and we’re just widgets for sale.
And like all business hovering around the edge of the law, there’s the disclaimer:
Prices shown on AttorneyFee are in no way to be construed as an advertisement or offer to perform services. Please note that the prices shown on AttorneyFee are not necessarily endorsed by the individual attorneys with whom they are associated. Finally, please note that the prices shown are rough approximations. Actual prices may vary depending on the individual circumstances of your matter.
Not sure what this means, other than the typical nothing said here means anything, but if it’s not a solicitation, then what the heck is it? On the other hand, at least the usual ethical implications of fee splitting aren’t implicated by hypertechnical explanations.
That this service produces what it purports to produce, and at no cost to consumer or lawyer, is clearly in its favor. I can imagine, to some extent, that in certain practice niches, this service will work fairly well, notably where the services needed are more along the lines of commoditized legal services.
To the extent it feeds the perception that law is no different than selling any commodity, it does the profession a disservice. But then again, if a potential client wants to search for a lawyer on the basis of hourly fees alone, better that they go to AttorneyFee.com and find themselves a darn fine price than call me. These are not my type of clients.