Lawyer Defends His Fees And Explains Why Pro Bono Work Hurts His Career

jon katz lawyerJon Katz

Photo: katzjustice1/YouTube

A criminal defence lawyer in Northern Virginia and Maryland is taking a stab at defending his high fees, saying it’s nice to do work for free but he can’t “live on love alone.”Jon Katz, a criminal defence attorney with his own practice, posted a lengthy defence of his fee schedule Wednesday on his blog Underdog in response to clients’ criticism.

From his blog:

One day a man [charged] with burglarizing a house for something no more valuable than a run-of-he mill DVD player came to my office. He experienced sticker shock when I quoted my fee. He asked if he could add his father to the conversation, since his father would be paying his legal fees. When the father heard my fee – a moderate fee quote for me, this not being a complex-seeming case, but a huge amount of money for the father – he became very upset, and expressed his dismay that a lawyer would cost that much for the alleged burglary of such a small value of belongings. The father was also upset about having to pay to defend his “innocent son.”

I empathized, and said I have no doubt that they can find a lawyer charging less, but that for me to put my full firepower into the son’s defence – which is the only way I go – my fee quote was necessary to cover my time and opportunity cost to provide an effective defence.

Katz went on to say that while he “glowed” when he was sworn in and listened to speeches about the value of taking cases pro bono, “neither lawyers nor anyone else can live on love alone.”

“I proudly do pro bono work each year, which for court appearance work ends up meaning that I have not only worked for no pay, but have paid out of my own pocket to do the work, when considering the clients who end up hiring another lawyer when my court time prevents me from appearing in court on the same date for a potential client, or meeting with the potential client sooner.”

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