If I had to summarize what I love about what I do it's that it affords me the opportunity to help people who've been legitimately wronged, and to earn a living while doing it. And in order to help some people who contact my office, I try to come up with creative billing solutions to help clients fulfill their legal needs while controlling costs. So, naturally, when someone tries to take advantage of my good intentions, I don't appreciate it. Here's one example: Last week I received a call from a small business owner who was bilked out of several hundred thousand dollars by his partner in a glaring breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty case. And - get this - he was able to document it. But we both agreed that it was not only possible, but likely, that the money he invested would be difficult to recover for a myriad of reasons. Recognizing that this gentleman was leery of throwing out good money after bad, I proposed that he enter into a hybrid retainer agreement (as opposed to a straight hourly retainer) - whereby the legal fees he would have to pay on the entire litigation would be capped at a small fraction of the overall anticipated cost of the litigation, in exchange for the attorney collecting a 20% contingent fee in the event of a recovery. Sounds fair, doesn't it? But this man - whom I've never met in person - was not only unwilling to fund the limited legal fees that were requested, he wanted the contingent fee to be limited to 5% of any recovery. He wanted to bear none of the risk, but to reap all the rewards, or as the old joke goes, heads he wins, tails I lose. Here was my gut reaction: if you could actually get an attorney to agree to those terms, do you really want that attorney to be the one litigating your six-figure breach of fiduciary duty case? It would have been far more honest of this man to ask if I could represent him pro bono.
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