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Cashing by the hour: Why large law firms prefer hourly fees over contingent fees

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Author Info

  • Nuno Garoupa
  • Fernando Gómez

Abstract

Large law firms seem to prefer hourly fees over contingent fees. This paper provides a moral hazard explanation for this pattern of behavior. Contingent legal fees align the interests of the attorney with those of the client, but not necessarily with those of the partnership. We show that the choice of hourly fees is a solution to an agency problem with multiple principals, where the interests of one principal (law firm) collide with the interests of the other principal (client).

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File URL: http://www.econ.upf.edu/docs/papers/downloads/639.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 639.

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Date of creation: Jul 2002
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:639

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

Related research

Keywords: Law firms; legal fees; moral hazard; risk-sharing;

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References

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  1. Dana, James D, Jr & Spier, Kathryn E, 1993. "Expertise and Contingent Fees: The Role of Asymmetric Information in Attorney Compensation," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 349-67, October.
  2. Rebitzer, James B. & Taylor, Lowell J., 2006. "When Knowledge Is an Asset: Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms," IZA Discussion Papers 2353, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. O'Flaherty, Brendan & Siow, Aloysius, 1995. "Up-or-Out Rules in the Market for Lawyers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(4), pages 709-35, October.
  4. Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1995. "Efficiency Wages and Employment Rents: The Employer-Size Wage Effect in the Job Market for Lawyers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(4), pages 678-708, October.
  5. Carr, Jack & Mathewson, Frank, 1990. "The Economics of Law Firms: A Study in the Legal Organization of the Firm," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 307-30, October.
  6. Daniel F. Rubinfeld & Suzanne Scotchmer, 1993. "Contingent Fees for Attorneys: An Economic Analysis," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(3), pages 343-356, Autumn.
  7. Sherwin Rosen, 1991. "The Market for Lawyers," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 72, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  8. Patricia Munch Danzon, 1983. "Contingent Fees for Personal Injury Litigation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 213-224, Spring.
  9. Santore, Rudy & Viard, Alan D, 2001. "Legal Fee Restrictions, Moral Hazard, and Attorney Rights," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 549-72, October.
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  11. Rickman, Neil, 1999. "Contingent fees and litigation settlement1," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 295-317, September.
  12. Hay, Bruce L, 1996. "Contingent Fees and Agency Costs," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 503-33, June.
  13. Lynk, William J, 1990. "The Courts and the Market: An Economic Analysis of Contingent Fees in Class-Action Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 247-60, January.
  14. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 2002. "A note on settlements under the contingent fee method of compensating lawyers," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 217-225, August.
  15. Miceli, Thomas J & Segerson, Kathleen, 1991. "Contingent Fees for Lawyers: The Impact on Litigation and Accident Prevention," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 381-99, June.
  16. Gravelle, Hugh & Waterson, Michael, 1993. "No Win, No Fee: Some Economics of Contingent Legal Fees," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1205-20, September.
  17. Emons, Winand, 2000. "Expertise, contingent fees, and insufficient attorney effort," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 21-33, March.
  18. Halpern, P. J. & Turnbull, S. M., 1983. "Legal fees contracts and alternative cost rules: An economic analysis," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 3-26, June.
  19. Thomason, Terry, 1991. "Are Attorneys Paid What They're Worth? Contingent Fees and the Settlement Process," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 187-223, January.
  20. Hay, Bruce L, 1997. "Optimal Contingent Fees in a World of Settlement," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 259-78, January.
  21. Spurr, Stephen J, 1987. "How the Market Solves an Assignment Problem: The Matching of Lawyers with Legal Claims," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages 502-32, October.
  22. Robert M. Sauer, 1998. "Job Mobility and the Market for Lawyers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(1), pages 147-171, February.
  23. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 2003. "Aligning the Interests of Lawyers and Clients," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 165-188.
  24. Miceli, Thomas J, 1994. "Do Contingent Fees Promote Excessive Litigation?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 211-24, January.
  25. Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-48, June.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Winand Emons & Nuno Garoupa, 2006. "US-style contingent fees and UK-style conditional fees: agency problems and the supply of legal services," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(5), pages 379-385.
  2. Choné, Philippe & Linnemer, Laurent, 2010. "Optimal litigation strategies with observable case preparation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 271-288, November.

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