BTG’s Contingency-Fee Model and the Justice Gap
In a society where legal arcana is creeping ever further into our everyday lives—with everything from credit card applications, to renter’s agreements, to employment contracts containing complex language that’s nearly impossible for non-lawyers to understand—access to legal representation is less a luxury than a necessity.
At the same time, soaring legal fees have barred access to the legal system for middle class Americans, who don’t qualify for low-income legal aid, but can’t afford the high hourly attorney rates that wealthy individuals and large corporations can. This problem has come to be referred to as the “Justice Gap.”
The result is that millions of Americans are unable to afford great legal help for business disputes and receive the full protection of the law they’re entitled to.
Fortunately, the Business Trial Group offers contingency-fee commercial litigation. By not charging hourly rates, we put clients in a position to achieve justice, no matter how well-funded their opponent is.
Learn how contingency-fee litigation can benefit you during a no-cost, no-obligation case review.
Who Benefits from the Legal System?
A recent article in Law360 minces no words when it describes the U.S. legal system as a “totally self-contained perpetual motion machine of an industry—one that’s built and maintained mostly for [lawyers’] benefit, often at the detriment of the end user.”
“The concept of paying people by the hour, on the honor system, to do work is preposterous.”
The end user, of course, is the everyday American unable to afford access to justice because of attorney rates that are as high as $2,000 per hour and a billable time system that encourages lawyers to drag cases out for as long as possible, and often bases partnership and promotion on the number of hours clients are billed for.
In his latest book, Morgan & Morgan’s founder, John Morgan, reflects on the thought process that led him to contingency-fee commercial litigation. “The concept of paying people by the hour, on the honor system, to do work is preposterous,” says Morgan. “Would you ever pay a painter or landscaper by the hour? Of course not. You pay them for the job.”
Yet even when clients are billed for hundreds or thousands of hours, Morgan points out, many lawyers, content to merely rack up billable hours, never actually take a case to trial.
When the client is wealthy, letting a case drag on means more billable time and more money. But when the client isn’t wealthy and doesn’t have millions of dollars to sink into litigation, a drawn-out legal affair usually means he or she must settle for less than the full amount of compensation owed.
The author of the Law360 article suggests a “consumer-first business model” as a way of dealing with legal system unfairness, but doesn’t get into specifics.
For John Morgan, the solution was simple: handle every case on a contingency basis, level the playing field, and force the competition to fall into line.
Self-Representation Spike Reflects Lack of Faith in System
Courtrooms across the country have seen a significant rise in the number of litigants representing themselves in legal matters—a practice known as “pro se” representation.
Presenting to the Florida Bar in 2013, Edge Consulting estimated that Americans at all income levels obtain help from lawyers with just 15% of their civil legal problems. Statistics from several states show just how prevalent pro se litigation is.
- In Utah, 83% of divorce cases, 87% of protective order cases, and 98% of eviction cases have pro se litigants
- In New York, 97% of child support cases, 99% of eviction cases, and 99% of consumer credit cases have pro se litigants
- In Florida, 80% of divorce cases include at least one pro se litigant
- 80-85% of California legal consumers are self-represented
Pro se litigation is a response to rising legal costs as well as a perception that lawyers are in it for themselves. For example, an American Bar Association study found that half of all pro se litigants believe that lawyers care more about their own self-interests than their client’s rights.
But with lawyers charging hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per hour for legal services that don’t always deliver optimal results, it’s hard to blame consumers for being cynical.
Self-representation isn’t the answer, however, as it usually results in worse outcomes for litigants, according to judges surveyed by the American Bar Association. The greatest problems facing pro se litigants, judges said, is the failure to present necessary evidence, procedural errors, ineffective witness examination, and failure to properly object to evidence.
Businesses Have Another Option
The choice between not litigating, paying a lawyer exorbitant fees, and litigating without a lawyer shows how many Americans with a legal problem find themselves in a no-win situation.
But there is another option.
At the Business Trial Group, we handle commercial and securities litigation, such as contract disputes, investment losses, construction litigation, and similar claims, exclusively on a contingency fee basis. You will not be charged by the hour, and if we don’t win, you don’t pay. It’s as simple as that.
Find out more during a complimentary case review.