Gene DuBose, Cheap Honest Trial Lawyer

Like most lawyers who try business and commercial lawsuits, I charge an hourly rate. That rate ranges from a minimum of $150 an hour for ordinary folk up to a maximum of $250 an hour for more affluent clients. I occasionally, but rarely, take litigation on a contingent fees basis – that is, where my only fee is a percentage of what my client recovers from a defendant.

These rates are well below what I have charged in the past and what lawyers with a career similar to mine would charge. Why is this? In my fifty years of practice I have seen enormous changes in the practice of law, but the most disturbing one has been the astronomical escalation of the hourly rates we charge. We have priced ourselves out of the middle class; ordinary folk are afraid to go to a lawyer because it will cost too much. Disturbed by this trend, a few year ago I moved my office home and drastically reduced my hourly rates – and become the Cheap Honest Lawyer.

When I graduated law school, most of my colleagues on the Harvard Law Review took clerkships with judges on appeals courts. I, however, wanted to see how a trial courtroom worked, and so I clerked for a trial judge, the brilliant Marvin E. Frankel, a federal judge in New York City. With the exception of four years as a law professor at the Northwestern University School of Law in the mid-70s, I have been in courtrooms ever since.

I have great academic credentials – a Harvard Law Review officership with four years of teaching law at a well-esteemed law school – but do those academic credentials translate into effective performance in the courtroom? Not always. I knew a summa cum laude Harvard Law graduate with whom I would not have entrusted the trial of a traffic ticket. But my personal experience has been that I am a little quicker on the uptake than my peers, and I am fast on my feet, able to catch those testimonial slips of the tongue that can lead into a devastating cross-examination. And I have had some notable successes with juries in Texas and elsewhere. But perhaps most importantly, I’ve been trying lawsuits on my own for over 37 years. I must be doing something right.

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