Eric A. Lanigan and Roddy B. Lanigan are a father and son law firm and partners at Lanigan and Lanigan, P.L. The Lanigans have provided clients with extensive experience, aggressive representation with a personal touch since 1976.
How Much Will It Cost?
“Let me address the two questions that always get asked and almost never get answered. And that is how much is it going to cost and how long will it take?” Eric Lanigan said.
“And they’re legitimate questions and I feel the frustration of a client when they can’t get an answer. And I try to explain to clients there’s a reason sometimes when you can’t get an answer.
Upfront About Fees
“So I try very hard to be upfront about fees. I try very hard as soon as I can give an effective estimate to be able to give them that estimate and to keep them apprised as we move through the case.
Not only do would I say for instance send an invoice and say “well all right, here’s what we’ve done over the last month.” But then I’ll try to project at least what’s going to happen what I project over the next month or two or three and what kind of anticipated costs they can see over that two or three month period.
Because I certainly would not want to have a plumber or a carpenter come to my house and say, “I want you to do this, I want you to do that and I don’t know what’s involved, I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I do know one thing: I don’t want to open up an envelope in 30 days and think that I had a $500 carpentry job and I get a bill for $5,000. I know how I would react to that and I should expect clients to act react the same way if I do it to them.
Clients Kept Updated on Costs
So I try to keep people abreast of in the next month or two or three, this is the activity that we’re going to have going on for sure.” And you know if you take our hourly rate and you multiply it by you know my estimate of this amount of time that it’s going to take to do this, you’ve kind of got a good idea of what you can be expecting to spend over the next couple of months.
I think that that’s what I would want and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t give to my client the same thing I would expect my carpenter or plumber to give to me if the tables were reversed.
Giant Pile of String in Giant Knot
“Sometimes I have to look across the table at somebody when they they ask me how much is this going to cost and I say I don’t know,” Roddy Lanigan said. “You tell me. You got a big giant pile of string, put in a big giant knot and now you’re asking me to undo it and you think that’s going to be cheap? That’s going to take some time and it’s going to cost a little bit of money.
“Often times clients come to me with a case which I immediately look at and understand that there’s no possible way I can take this to trial. Defeat at trial is effectively 100 percent certain. Therefore our only goal is loss mitigation and trying to position the parties in the right way that we can maximize an efficient outcome for our client.”
Are Your Expectations Realistic?
And so and many times I’ll ask the client when we get into what the case is all about. And I’ll ask the client, “what is your expectation of what this is going to cost?” Because I want to know whether or not the client has any realistic understanding of what they’re dealing with. So if you get somebody in your office and they’ve brought in file boxes of papers. And it’s a history that goes back a couple of years and it’s all this complicated back and forth to create a very complicated case.
And I say, “well what’s your expectation of what this is going to cost?” And then they say, “well I think we ought to be able to get in and out of this for like a couple thousand dollars.”
Well I know right then it’s time to stop and we’re either going to come to reality or they’re going to have to look elsewhere. What I try to tell clients is I don’t know the answer to that question right now. But I think in fairly short order I’m going to be able to give you a pretty good estimate of an answer to both of those questions but I can’t do it now.
Fee Structure Hourly Rate is Effective
So we fall back into the fee structure which I have never liked but it seems to be the only one that effectively works and that is between now and that point in time when I can give you an effective answer I’m going to charge you X dollars per hour. And that can vary from the type of case and frankly it can vary from the client. And I’m going to be honest about those numbers and how I derive them and how many hours I think at a minimum. And that is the question that every lawyer should be able to answer and that is that I guarantee you it’s not going to be less than so many hours.
This is the Financial Commitment
So that the client knows that to really even get started here: this is the financial commitment that they have to make. Whether it’s $1,000 or $10,000 or $20,000 you know that this is what I can assure you: that you will not spend less unless that boxer does drop his hands and just sticks his chin out — which is probably not going to happen.