Flat Fee Divorce … In the Service Industry of Law

I was having a conversation with my I.T. service guy — Taylor — about ‘flat fee divorce‘ and flat fee billing by lawyers, in general.  Taylor actually posts a pricing menu for his services on his website at Slate I.T. Consulting. If he’s got a significant job (like wiring a 7,000 square foot house) he obtains a deposit for the services.

That sounds a lot like the way the law works with retainers and the like.

Except rarely do lawyers and law firms post price menus.  In fact, you’re very much looked down upon by the Lovey and Mr. Howell lawyers (Gilligan’s Island reference), or the too cool for school crowd, if you talk about flat fees.

The reason: lawyers still enjoy a captive market and the profession jealously defends your captivity.

But don’t be fooled by lawyers who wax eloquently about potential ‘conflict of interest’ in flat fee billing. That’s nonsense (although it does sound enticing).

Similar ‘potential conflicts’ can be seen everywhere in the profession.  Claiming ‘potential conflict’ becomes akin to shouting ‘conspiracy theory‘ whenever any standard belief pattern is challenged.  The law is rich with ‘potential conflicts’  and we nobly move forward.

Suffice it to say that your contested divorce or child custody case is always broken into segments, or scenes in the overall story that is the conflict itself.

It’s true that some stories have more actors than others. Indeed, some stories are more complex. But those of us who pay attention to the ‘structure of the story‘ (or myth, thank you Joseph Campbell) know that stories tend to come in patterns: Romeo & Juliet is West Side Story is The Twilight Saga is so forth and so on . . .

Your divorce is a story and it does fit a pattern in the limited universe of civil law.

So flat fee billing is not the wave of the future. It’s already here. It’s just that the profession is slow to change.

So research, shop and buy. Clip coupons and look for deals. Law is increasingly a service industry . . . and the customer is always right to shop.