Why don't more hourly-billing lawyers take on contingent fee cases?

              In the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog dated March 29, 2010, Ashby Jones asks whether there are any takers on the strategy of mixing a traditional hourly fee practice with a contingent-fee business. 

Most firms do not take plaintiff's contingency fee cases because they are risk averse. They lack the entrepreneurial spirit. I've seen it time after time. Many lawyers on the hourly side think it is easy to make loads of money during contingent litigation. It is not. It requires huge investments of lawyer time and borrowed expense money. For the same reasons that some people work for corporations and other are entrepreneurs, some lawyers and firms are cut out for hourly work and others are willing to risk everything. No risk, no reward. 


            For a lawyer to be successful with a contingent fee case, three things are necessary.  First, there must be a reasonably good case for liability. Second, there must be significant damages. Third, the defendant must be able to pay a judgment.


            Even if all those things are present, the case must survive inevitable legal challenges by the defense, including motions for summary judgment (to prevent the case from even reaching the jury) and appeals. Years can pass, and millions of dollars in lawyer time and case expenses will be repaid. And after all is said and done, the lawyer might lose and have to pay back a line of credit. It is not a business for the weak or fearful.


            Many of our contingent fee clients are true entrepreneurs. Even if they are doing business as a corporation, they are risk-takers. They appreciate that their lawyers have their own “skin in the game.” Businessmen and lawyers who will not take risks need not apply! 

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