Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What Are We Worth?

My friend over at the Matlock Blog shared a perturbing story about getting his attorney fees cut by a judge who failed to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding a hard fought battle to get good results for his client. Shawn lamented:
Today, I received notice that the judge had cut my bill by 75%. Unbelievable. What the judge basically told me was that the amount of time I should have spent on this case was the equivalent of an afternoon at the bar. Not that I do that kind of thing.

So I realized a couple of things today. I respect more and more those that can somehow hack a living out of what the judges see fit to pay them for work. And I'll be damned if I will be one of them.

A lot of people need representation. Actually, everyone needs good representation, but few really get it. But if judges continue to devalue the work of the defense bar, those in need will never get it.

I feel your pain Shawn. I agree many of the most interesting cases come from the well of court-appointments. I also appreciate your desire to take court-appointments because many of these unfortunate people need good lawyers, but just can't afford the fees.

Most importantly, judges need to respect the time good lawyers put into difficult cases and pay them a fair wage. How do the courts expect lawyers to invest the necessary effort into a case when they fear getting a pay cut? Many highly qualified lawyers get off court-appointment lists for that reason alone.

Shawn, I know your fees got cut. But if I were you, I'd go back a second time and let the judge know how feel and what the case really took to get resolved.

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