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

Author

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  • 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).

Suggested Citation

  • Nuno Garoupa & Fernando Gómez, 2002. "Cashing by the hour: Why large law firms prefer hourly fees over contingent fees," Economics Working Papers 639, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:639
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, pages 217-225.
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    5. 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 381-399, June.
    6. James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor, 2007. "When Knowledge Is an Asset: Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 201-229.
    7. Gravelle, Hugh & Waterson, Michael, 1993. "No Win, No Fee: Some Economics of Contingent Legal Fees," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1205-1220, September.
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    22. 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.
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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. Ghazala Azmat & Rosa Ferrer Zarzuela, 2012. "Gender gaps in performance: Evidence from young lawyers," Economics Working Papers 1300, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2015.
    3. Choné, Philippe & Linnemer, Laurent, 2010. "Optimal litigation strategies with observable case preparation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 271-288, November.
    4. Chris Kuo, 2013. "Billing Abuses by the Experts: A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Legal Services," Journal of Economics and Management, College of Business, Feng Chia University, Taiwan, vol. 9(1), pages 13-30, January.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • L8 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services

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