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

  • Nuno Garoupa
  • Fernando Gómez

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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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
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Christopher Ferrall, 1996. "Promotions and Incentives in Partnerships: Evidence from Major U.S. Law Firms," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(4), pages 811-27, November.
  4. 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.
  5. James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor, 2006. "When Knowledge is an Asset: Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms," NBER Working Papers 12583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Patricia Munch Danzon, 1983. "Contingent Fees for Personal Injury Litigation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 213-224, Spring.
  12. 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.
  13. Rickman, Neil, 1999. "Contingent fees and litigation settlement1," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 295-317, September.
  14. 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.
  15. Rosen, Sherwin, 1992. "The Market for Lawyers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 215-46, October.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Emons, Winand, 2000. "Expertise, contingent fees, and insufficient attorney effort," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 21-33, March.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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