Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Cost Cutting and Legal Fees

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | June 28, 2010

No. 460

Andrew Carnegie, the unofficial patron saint of Pittsburgh, was a great practitioner of the art and science of cost cutting, which in turn enabled price cutting.  We tend to forget (or never knew) that the great industrialists of the Guilded Age achieved their dominance during the “Long Depression” which began in 1873 and after two decades marked by partial recoveries, plunged again in 1893. In that era, competition was often cut-throat and survivors like Carnegie were usually able to undercut competitors when the marketplace demanded it. Economist Paul Krugman writes today in the New York Times that he believes that the world is embarking on a “Third Depression” which is more akin to the Long one than the Great one. He points to unemployment stuck at 10% as proof.

Cost cutting is not synonymous with cuts in investment.  To the contrary, cutting costs may provide extra funds to take advantage of investment opportunities.

An excellent place to start cutting costs is attorney’s fees.  I often wonder who legal clients think pays for the first class office space they visit. With a little bit of investigation, you can find an attorney with just as much expertise as the one you are paying $250.00 an hour or more for, say, $125.00 — half price.  Or, even better, you may be able to negotiate a fixed fee for a particular task.

Of course, in order to offer you the lower fee, an attorney must have already cut his or her costs.  This is not as unusual as you might think.  Pittsburgh in particular, and indeed all America, is full of experienced and capable sole practitioners and small firms, some being refugees from larger and more expensive firms. They may have learned their craft at high-priced establishments, but, although they are gone, they have not forgotten.  They often work in home offices and use technology instead of extra people. Because their cost base is lower, they can provide you with equal or better service at a lower fee.

Where do you find such lawyers?  Generally speaking, you don’t find them in lists of so-called “Best Lawyers in America” or “Super Lawyers”.  You find them on the AVVO Board or by asking people who are likely to know.

Of course, legal fees are not the only criteria for choice.  A low fee does you no good if you lose the case.  Moreover, an astute lawyer can create extra value in innumerable ways.  Dogged determination, alertness, poise under fire, ingenuity, sound judgment are all components of what you purchase when you hire a good lawyer.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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