Three civil trial lawyers have launched a firm in Chicago called Valorem, Latin for "value," that they hope will be an answer to clients' increasing demand for alternative fee arrangements that lower legal costs.
Patrick Lamb and Hugh Totten, both in Chicago, and Mark Sayre, in Los Angeles, have joined together to start the firm. Lamb formerly worked at Katten Muchin Rosenman for 18 years before moving to Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd for the past seven while Hugh Totten was at Kirkland & Ellis for 18 years before moving to Perkins Coie in 2004. Mark Sayre joined Jackson & Wallace in 2004 from Schaffer & Lax.
The firm will focus on high-end commercial civil litigation and work with clients to agree on fixed rates, contingency fees, monthly retainers or other arrangements, Totten said in an interview. If some clients want to use hourly rates, Totten expects they will be 20 percent to 30 percent below those of major firms, he said. For instance, Totten expects to bill less than $500 an hour if a client chooses to use an hourly rate, he said.
"We're focusing on identifying and sharing risk with clients in a way that big firms won't, but we bring to the table the same talent," Totten said.
Lamb said on his blog that each bill will have a "value adjustment line" where the client can make changes to the charges that he or she feels necessary. That's a measure that Lamb attributes to attorney friend Ralph Palumbo of the Summit Law Group in Seattle.
Lamb has mainly spent his career representing business interests in toxic tort litigation and has also worked with buyers and sellers in post-merger or acquisition disputes, according to his blog. Sayre has specialized in defending manufacturers in toxic tort cases, asbestos and property damage cases. Totten, who has a niche in complex civil litigation, last year became a regular commentator on the Conrad Black criminal trial in Chicago.
To help keep costs down, the firm intends to outsource some legal work to offshore firms because the founders of the firm believe there are various legal tasks that don't need to be performed by top-dollar attorneys. All attorneys at Valorem, where "members" will be the equivalent of "partners," will have the same size office -- a small one, Lamb said.
Totten expects the approach of his new firm is at the forefront of a trend that will be pushed forward by the rise in rates for top partners at major firms, the industrywide increase in associate pay levels and the increasing dissatisfaction among corporate general counsel.
"We're seeing the beginning of what I think are some real structural changes," Totten said.
Clients coming to the firm with the lawyers including JMB Realty Corp., a Chicago real estate developer; the engineering products manufacturer Idex Corp. and energy equipment manufacturer FMC Technologies, Totten said.
Valorem expects to bring on board another attorney from a major firm in the next couple months, Totten said. The firm currently has two paralegals and one contract associate.