Everybody likes a good deal. At Schiller, DuCanto & Fleck, LLP, we take comfort using a team approach which makes our resources go further and adds value for the client. Oftentimes, consumers of legal services ask about hourly rates only for the lawyer they interview, but seldom ask about rates for other lawyers, law clerks and paralegals that may work on the case. When legal services consumers hear their lawyers use a team approach, many assume that this means multiple lawyers doing the same things and thus they worry about double billing. In reality, however, the team approach does not equate to double billing. When used effectively, the team approach allocates work to the right billing level so that when the total fees are divided by the number of hours spent by professionals (paralegals, law clerks, attorneys), the blended rate is lower than the individual lawyers’ hourly rate. Allocating work to the right billing level means paralegals and law clerks deal with things like document organization, file management, basic collating and analysis (starting a balance sheet) while the leading lawyer analyzes the documents already organized and preliminarily analyzed to determine how they can shape case strategy to achieve the client’s goals. Similarly, this means less experienced lawyers (at lower rates) handling routine court appearances and more experienced lawyers (at higher rates) handling more complex or critical court appearances or those where a client particularly wants them there.
Work being done by a team allows for the allocation of work to the right experience level and the right cost level. It does not mean a client never sees the partner they consulted and wanted, but instead means that a client is working with a responsive team so that the client is getting the most value for their money. This approach costs the client less since, for example, if the lead attorney elsewhere charges $400 per hour and does virtually everything, that will ultimately cost the client more than it will cost if the lead attorney charges $450 per hour, but uses a multi-leveled team blended rate approach.