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The Business of Law

An Innovative Client-Centered Approach to the Practice of Law

Our goal is to make our law practice focused on you, the client. Offering client-centered legal services starts with our pricing and fees. We are rethinking the traditional hourly-billing model and scrapping it almost entirely. There are different pricing models that will align our fees with your goals. We strive to be both effective and efficient in delivering value to you, our client. 

We want our pricing to represent the value that we give back to our clients. "Value" means different things to different clients. For example, a matrimonial client may find emotional value in relief that we can provide to them. Or a business client will receive tangible financial value in litigation services or general counseling. We want the value our clients receive to be the means that we use to attract new clients or former clients for new matters.

In a client-centered model, how we bill our clients is just as important as how much we bill.

Types of Fee Agreements and Structures 

Hourly Rates 

Hourly billing is what most people think of when they think of attorney fees. But we recognize that type of law firm pricing is becoming outdated and it is not client friendly. As technology in the law improves, we are able to provide more transparency and predictability in pricing to our clients.  Although we are attorneys, we have retained other attorneys on an hourly basis in the past. Hourly billing makes client feel anxious about their legal bill because it is impossible to know what the final number will be. Attorneys are also notorious for poorly predicting what the final bill will be under the hourly basis model. Clients may also be fearful of calling or communicating with their attorney believing that the clock is running. In the hourly billing model, value received often feels less than what the client paid. It is no secret, hourly billing fosters distrust because it provides an incentive for attorneys to be inefficient and "churn the file" so to speak. This distrust is disastrous for the attorney client relationship. The client-centered model doesn't focus on paying us for our time, but rather you paying us for the value we give you. 

Most of the time, it will be better for our relationship client to go with an alternative pricing model. Sometimes called an alternative fee agreement or "AFA."

On certain matters, the law prohibits certain AFA's. Most common are domestic relations matters and criminal defense. In the event that we enter into an hourly fee agreement it will typically for a rate that is well below market rate and combined with some alternative model (for example providing a cap on the amount of legal fees to be earned). Our goal is transparency. 

Alternative Law Firm Pricing Models 

Alternative pricing models include risk shifting. Some models have fees dependent on the outcome of the matter (like contingency fees) where the attorney assumes the same risk as the client. If the client loses, the attorney does not get paid a legal fee. Below I go over a pricing models that our firm offers to clients.

Flat Fees 

Also called fixed fees, are agreed total fees that are paid upfront or at the conclusion of a legal matter. Flat fees work well in Estate Planning and Will Drafting, Appellate Litigation, Traffic Ticket Defense, Misdemeanor Defense, and non-complex litigation matters. Flat fees are attractive for our clients because these type of matters usually have few surprises and provide the ultimate predictability in fees. 

If a flat fee is not appropriate for the entirety of a legal matter, one option is that the flat fee may be charged in phases or based on a time period. This is common in litigation cases. We can charge a flat fee or contingency fee up to and including the point where discovery is over and the matter proceeds to trial. Then, an additional fee or reduced hourly retainer can be use on the time trying a case. We can break down a matter into smaller pieces, charging a fixed rate for each piece. This is not viable for all matters, but does work well in the context of litigation. 

Capped Fees

The is an alternative model to the traditional hourly billing and works as a hourly billing/flat fee hybrid. In a capped fee agreement a client will pay us by the hour, but the number of hours will be capped in a predetermined amount. Usually our clients will pay at the conclusion of the matter or when the hourly cap is met. The client benefit of this model is that clients will know that they won't pay more than a fixed amount. One area to note here, just because our firm may agree to cap the "hours" worked on in a case for fee billing purposes - that does not mean we expect the matter to be completed in that amount of hours. For example, if we say we will charge $175 per hour and cap the hours at 20 hours worth of work, that is a capped hourly arrangement.  

Sliding Fee Structures

This is a law firm pricing model is based on a client's ability to pay. Our mission is to close the access to justice gap facing the citizens of the State of New York. The legal fee charged is determined by income and family size as taken from the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The legal fee each client pays, whether hourly or as a flat rate, will be determined by their income. As a result, those with lower incomes or more modest means will pay a lower legal fee. We hope that this will give those clients who need legal services greater access to justice and attorneys that were otherwise out of reach for them.  

Unbundled 

Sometimes referred to as "limited scope" legal services is when clients hire us to perform a specific task or to represent them for only a single process or issue rather than an entire legal matter. The area of law where this works the best is consumer debt defense. For example, if you are being sued for a debt that is $1,500, it would be difficult to find a privately retained attorney for that matter. Because the cost of the legal fee could be used to help pay down the debt.

Here, we could be retained solely for the purpose of drafting an answer for you to file by yourself. Or we could help you with formatting and writing a motion. Or help you with legal research and drafting a legal brief. These discrete tasks may be difficult to do on your own, and you might be willing to pay a small fee for that service.

Contingency 

Contingency fees are often used in litigation, routine collections, insurance, personal injury, or medical malpractice cases. This is where you take a certain percentage of the monetary settlement or damages a client receives or is awarded. In New York it is usually 33.33%. 

This is a good option for clients who cannot pay an out of pocket legal fee. It is important to note the New York Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit contingency fees in domestic relations matters and criminal cases. 

Reverse Contingency

A reverse contingency fee is based on a percentage much like traditional contingency fee representation, except the fee is based on a percentage of the amount that we save the client. This is most typically used in defense litigation where there is no insurance coverage or an insurer validly disclaimed coverage. This type of fee requires that our office and the prospective client agree on the maximum exposure the client faces in a litigated or contested matter where there is a financial stake. Then the reverse contingency fee is calculated as a percentage of the difference between that maximum exposure and the ultimate resolution, by either settlement or judgment. 

Subscription Fees

A subscription based model is where an attorney's services available for a fixed law firm pricing on a recurring basis. Think of it being similar to Netflix or Disney+, but for legal services instead. 

This works best for our small business and start-up clients who cannot afford in-house counsel general counsel but want predictable pricing for its outside counsel. This model also works well for in contested litigation matters. We offer businesses and individuals on-call around the clock legal advice on a majority of our practice areas. Our subscription service for small business clients operates like this: we charge the business a pre-agreed monthly fee for a specified term. Usually this is for a year, but it can be three months, six months or any term the business is comfortable with.  Included in the monthly fee is unlimited document review, unlimited letters and consultations, litigation services, compliance issues, and general business counseling. We will not nickel and dime you and constantly tell you that your legal matter is beyond what our subscription offers. For example, a shareholder of a small business requested that we prepare a Last Will & Testament on his behalf. Although not technically covered by his business legal services subscription agreement, we did not charge an additional legal fee.

Our ultimate goal is to make legal services available to all potential clients at a cost that they can afford. During our initial consultation you, we discuss all available AFA's for a certain matter. We encourage you to suggest an AFA listed above that you think may work for you and we will likely be receptive.  

Payment Methods

We accept debit cards, credit cards, and eChecks that can be paid online through our website or client portal. For client expenses and disbursements we can accept Venmo or PayPal. Payment arrangements/plans are available to most of our clients. 

Litigation for when you need us, intelligent counseling so you won't.

Arnold A. Arpino & Associates, P.C., is a full service law firm that represents individuals and businesses in a variety of different practice areas. Our firm regularly appears in the Courts throughout Long Island, New York City, and the Hudson Valley.

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