Friday, March 14, 2008

The Only Honest Lawyer In New York?

The Brodsky Law Firm is not your typical New York City law firm. For one thing, they have a crude drawing of a purple cow on their homepage.

Unusually, they also publish their rates, and a guarantee online. I recently spoke with Steve Brodsky about the firm.

How is it that you can charge 70% less than the average lawyer?

By keeping my overhead low, and doing all the work myself, I eliminate many of the typical expenses associated with operating a law office. My office is tiny and has no windows. I don’t have secretaries, paralegals, or receptionists. I don’t wear suits. And perhaps most important, I don’t have any receivables. All fees are paid up front. I’ve seen statistics which show that 30% of a typical lawyer’s billables are never collected.

Why do you do so?

First, as former entrepreneur and businessman, I resented paying lawyers $300 to $500/hour. But there was no choice–that’s the going rate for NYC lawyers. I eventually realized that there must be many businesspeople who feel the same way, and simply can’t or won’t pay that kind of money. Second, I’m not impressed with lawyers. Ninety-nine percent of them do not deserve the money they make. They provide lousy customer service along with a sense of self-importance, and the attitude that they are entitled to their ridiculously high fees. I’m the exact opposite. I went to the same top-25 law school (Fordham) and passed the hardest bar exam in the country (New York), but that doesn’t make me entitled to rob people. No one should have to pay 20 times their own hourly salary for a lawyer. Besides, I’m not in it strictly for the money. I enjoy making access to legal services affordable, and I perform many services for free. I’m a strong believer that we’re all put on earth to do good. This is my way.

What’s your background and history?

I’m a long-time serial entrepreneur. I’ve founded several startups, most notably, which received major VC backing around 1999/2000. It has since gone under, a victim of the first wave of the dotcom shakeout. The concept, which was a vast improvement to online “yellow pages” sites, was ahead of its time.

What’s the Purple Cow guarantee?

1. No call screeners. Calls always answered or returned by me. Most lawyers are trained to think that they have to have a “gatekeeper” so that they can avoid certain calls.
2. Ready when promised. Your work completed on time. Again, if I say it will be done in two days, it’s done in two days. It’s about accountability to my clients.
3. FAST RESPONSE. I return calls and emails quickly, often within minutes. Most lawyers feel too important to provide responses in a timely manner. My clients are shocked when their emails are often answered within one minute (literally).
4. Lowest rates. My fees are about 70% lower than the average law firm.
5. No Nickels & Dimes. I don’t charge for quick phone calls, emails, postage, copies, etc. These items are standard billing practice for lawyers. And, at $300/hr, a 30-second email response will often cost $75, when billing is done in 1/4 hour increments.
6. Experience. I provide the same or more experience than most lawyers charging three times as much. Again, top-25 law school, many years legal experience, and even more real-world business experience.

Lawyers have typically been so despised for being out-of-touch that no one feels the slightest qualm about making the most horrific jokes about them, but legal mavericks and entrepreneurs like Steve Brodsky and Brodsky Law are changing, and humanizing, the face of the industry.

Additional reading:

Marketing the Legal Mind

mEgo Success Story

The Rise Of Freeconomics. Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business

How To Build A $300 Million Domain Name Empire