Who will ever forget Monty Python’s Dead Parrot skit?
But if you thought that was funny below is a transcript of a conversation between an Oldlaw partner Michael and his client John:
“John:Michael how are you? Thanks for eventually getting back to me. I left a few messages for you about that last invoice you sent us. Sorry I have been sitting on it for some time now but I really need to discuss it with you.
Michael: Sure John sorry you know how it is, meant to ring you back but been soooo busy (on other clients work). So what seems to be the problem?
John:You know how we agreed on a fixed fee for that work you were doing for us?
Michael: Yep sure do.
John: Well Michael its just I got your invoice and its not a fixed fee.
Michael. Yes it is.
John.No it isn’t Michael. The invoice is higher-substantially higher as a matter of fact- than the fee we agreed.
Michael: Oh yeah sorry about that but well that is because some of work took longer than anticipated and we did some other work that wasn’t planned for. But our invoice is still fixed.
Joe: But Barry its fixed at a higher fee arbitrarily set by you. I never agreed to that fee.
Barry: No Joe its not an arbitrary figure, its not as though we just picked that fee in the invoice out of thin air. No way. I have the timesheets to prove it.
John: Michael you may well have some timesheets but they are quite frankly irrelevant to me as we agreed on a fixed fee in advance for this work.I don’t care if it took you a longer time or even a shorter time to complete that work than you had anticipated.We had a deal.
Michael: Oh come on John, be fair, I can assure you all the work was necessary to get the deal done, and it has cost my firm more to get you the result you wanted.
John: Michael we had a deal on the fee and with respect its up to you to manage what time and resources you put into getting this work done and it is not my fault if it has taken longer than you anticipated.And anyway just what additional cost is it to the firm because it took longer than you thought?
Michael:well you know John as your lawyers we sell our time to you and if we are giving you time for free its costing us big time.
John: Michael I am not buying you or your law firms time, I am buying your skills, experience and expertise to get me the outcome and results we agreed upon. Again explain to me what additional cost your firm is incurring on this “additional”time? Do you pay your lawyers by time?
Michael: No we agree an annual remuneration with our lawyers, but we charge them out by the hour to our clients as you know.
John: So there is absolutely no additional cost to the firm?
Michael:Oh there is John as the hourly rate each lawyer has is not all profit for the firm. The hourly rate meticulously includes a whole range of actual costs we need to recover before the firm even starts making a profit.
John: Michael I don’t know where you pulled all that from but I don’t believe- and I know you don’t really believe- that there are any additional costs whatsoever to the firm so don’t try that on me. But even if I was to humour you and agree there were some additional costs I don’t care two hoots about your costs Michael just as you shouldn’t care about mine. The fact is we had an agreement on our fees and that is that.
Michael: John but what if I can prove to you that the extra time we put in was worth it and necessary will you pay the invoice then?
John: Michael if all this additional work was necessary and unforeseen what didn’t you just ring me before you did all this other work and we might-I say we might- have been able to come to some agreement on any change in scope and maybe I might have agreed to a change in the price. But you never rang me Michael.
Michael: John how could I ring you as it was not until the end of the month when I looked at the timesheets of everyone who worked on your matter that I even knew there was additional time and work involved.
John. Michael you are not serious?
Michael:Look John because you are such a good client lets not let this little hiccup come between us, so lets see if we can come to some arrangement on fees.What about if we split the difference.That seems more than fair to me. What say you?
Michael: John? John? You there John? Damn I just wanted to remind him our hourly rates are fixed too.”
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