Tollefsen Law has radically altered the
standard business model for law firms in order to minimize the cost
of legal services. The normal law firm is built like a
pyramid with associates at the bottom required to bill 200 hours or
more a month to provide large incomes to partners atop the pyramid.
Associates must make partner in 6 years or so or find other work.
The standard law firm business model results in higher fees because
inexperienced lawyers at the bottom of the pyramid provide most of
the revenue for the firm. The standard law firm attempts to impress
its clients with its success by renting the most expensive offices
and furnishing them lavishly. The clients are asked to believe the
best law firms have the most expensive offices.
Tollefsen Law has no minimum billing
requirement and attempts to
provide maximum service at the lowest reasonable price through use
of the latest technology, management efficiencies and lower overhead (see
Technology and reasons to hire a smaller firm.) Our lawyers are
distinguished experienced professional.
Basing the decision to hire an attorney solely
on the hourly rate is unwise. Some attorneys work faster than
others. Some have more experience and can obtain the result with
less effort. Our fee structure is flexible and there are no minimum
We work on fixed fee, hourly and hybrid fee arrangements. We use legal
assistants and paralegals to lower the overall cost. Staff including
paralegals and lawyers bill from $75 $180 per hour. Lawyers bill from $150
to $325 per hour depending on experience and expertise. We focus on
providing value commensurate with the cost. We do not "churn
the bill" like some law firms.
With legal costs at an all-time high, business as
usual is the wrong answer. Law firms need to plan expenditures to
minimize cost while obtaining the greatest benefit. They must make maximum use of
technology to increase productivity and lower costs. Hourly rates do
not measure productivity. Clients cannot be expected to cover the
cost of high priced, every increasing rents in downtown high-rise
buildings. Clients can no longer be expected to pay for associates
who overbill a file to achieve required minimum billing levels.
Our preferred office location is outside of the city
in a lower-cost building. We look for free parking and easy access from
a major freeway. Since federal courts and more state courts
require filing on the Internet, there is little reason to be located
across from the court house.
Tollefsen Law's low overhead offers several advantages over large law firms:
Better response time because you have direct access to the lawyer. Greater personal attention from the lawyer you
hired. Your case will not be delegated to an associate without your
approval. Every case is assigned a paralegal case manager who is
readily available to contact regarding your case. Often lower overall legal expense is achieved
through a combination of efficiency resulting from experience and the lack of pressure to
obtain a minimum amount of billing per month. Since you are working directly with
the responsible attorney and the case manager, there is less chance of billing misunderstandings and greater
accountability of the lawyer to the client.
Our firm concentrates on delivering value to clients for every
Prospective new clients often request free initial
consultations. If we agreed, we would need a full-time attorney just to
take initial consultations. Also, because of the experience level of our
attorneys, many clients would receive the answer they are seeking in the
initial meeting. This is unfair to our attorneys who have engaged in a
lifetime of study of law to make their living. Even if we resolved the
case in the initial consultation, we would need to establish a new
client file, perform conflict checks, and make records of the facts of
the case and the advice given.
Minimum fee for new clients
TL receives frequent requests for a short meeting
with an attorney. It is often not cost effective to have a short meeting
with a new client that will not have further work for the firm. In order
to meet the demand for small case consultations, new clients (those not
established in our database) are charged a minimum retainer of $500. The
first $175 goes to the file setup fee. It includes a conflict check and
setting up the electronic file in our database. The remaining $325 is
applied to future invoices. The $500 is earned on receipt so the firm
does not have the cost of maintaining trust account records on small
client files. After a client is established in our database, future work
(whether related to the initial matter or not) does not require a
minimum fee or file setup fee.
We receive many telephone calls and email from
prospective clients each week seeking legal representation on a
contingency fee basis. Most callers do not understand the economics
of contingent payment. To take a contingency fee case, the law firm
is agreeing to forego an hourly fee case. Therefore the contingency
fee case must offer the possibility of compensation in excess of the
normal hourly rate, unless there are other compelling circumstances.
Cases typically take one to four years to resolve. The cost to the
law firm taking the case is often over $100,000. Before investing a
significant sum in a contingency fee case, the law firm needs
to be assured the defendants have the unquestioned ability to pay
any judgment. Most of the time, the perpetrators of financial fraud
schemes either do not have assets or have hidden them. Unless there
is another "deep pocket" with potential liability, there is no real
remedy for the wrong. TL accepts a limited number of contingency fee
cases. For various reasons, we turn down over 90% of contingency fee
Contingency fees are
negotiable but usually approximate
33.33% if the client pays the costs in advance. Contingency fees require large amounts of
damages (in excess of $200,000) and solvent defendants. Some cases start as hourly but become
or fixed fee) after the facts of the case are become more certain.
Generally we consider all the following factors when
deciding whether to take a contingency fee case. If the answer is "yes"
to any of the following questions, TL will probably not take your case
on a contingency fee basis unless there is a public interest or
unusually compelling factor.
Is there a risk that the defendant(s) will not pay a
Are the damages likely to be less than $200,000?
Has the statute of limitations expired?
Is it a type of case that TL does not normally handle?
Meetings in client office or home
Client location is usually not a significant factor any longer. Many courts allow filing
of court documents electronically. The
initial meeting, depositions, mediation, and trial are often the only time attorney and client meet face to face. Tollefsen
meets clients in their offices or homes to make the representation as convenient as possible for the client.
Fixed fee and special fee Arrangements
TL will consider a creative fee agreement that
can meet your needs. Often businesses find themselves in need of
significant legal services that are not part of their annual budget.
Whether it is the cost of business organization, financing
(including private placements), or litigation, TL has plans for
almost any business need. From monthly payments plans, retainer
agreements, fixed fees, contingency and hybrid arrangements, TL
will do it best to find a way to provide the legal services you
Bankruptcy Fixed Fees
Tax Fixed Fees
Retainer agreements can be customized to meet
your needs. If you have a need for a lawyer from time to time, it is
helpful to have one who knows you and your situation. It is often
difficult to educate a lawyer quickly in an emergency. The retainer
agreement can be flexible and combine fixed fees and hourly fees.
The least expensive retainer available from Tollefsen Law PLLC is billed at $1,000 per year. The retainer fee is paid in
advance and placed in the firm's client trust account. If you use
legal serviced during the year, those fees are deducted from your
trust account. In addition, you will be scheduled for a one hour
appointment with a lawyer each year to relate what happened in your
life the previous year. This meeting allows you to keep your
attorney apprised of your situation and spot issues you may have
overlooked. You will be charged for this meeting at the lawyer's
then standard hourly rate (whether or not you attend the meeting).
At the end of the retainer year, you will be automatically billed
the amount needed to replenish the retainer. If you do not pay the
invoice within 30 days, the balance of your trust account will be
mailed to you and Tollefsen Law PLLC will no longer be your
We want to be of service. If you have
any ideas for improving our fee arrangements, please let us know.