New York Law Journal Profiles Desmarais LLP
A recent New York Law Journal (NYLJ) profile highlighted Desmarais LLP’s flat-fee billing approach, recruiting efforts to hire top law students, and training methods for developing new associates.
“We do not bill by the hour. Instead, we bill a monthly, flat fee and, if a client prefers, we also will bill a flat monthly fee for the expenses, which we will then manage,” John Desmarais, the firm’s founding partner, told NYLJ. “The preset monthly fee gives clients clear budget certainty for the duration of the matter.”
This unique approach to billing is a major differentiator for Desmarais LLP, and the firm has continued to refine its fee schedules based upon the size, type and complexity of cases, Desmarais said.
There is no cap on the total cost for each matter, though; the firm’s flat-fee billing model simply provides a predetermined monthly amount that is charged for the duration of the matter. Additionally, most monthly fees will vary based on the stage of the matter, Desmarais said.
“Clients come to us not for a discount – our case budgets are market-rate with the big firms – but they appreciate our approach for its ease of administration and complete quarterly budget predictability,” he said.
Currently, Desmarais LLP’s workload is focused on the technology sector, but the firm soon plans to build out its life sciences practice, and hiring top law school talent will be a cornerstone of the firm’s growth, Desmarais said. The firm provides industry-leading compensation to these recruits, paying associates at $20,000 above the New York market rate at every level (first-year associates currently start at $210,000).
“Recruiting remains a major priority for us going forward, as we look to continue to bring in the top law students from the top law schools,” Desmarais said. “We compete with the large firms for the same recruits. If we want to continue to grow, we need more and more of the top recruits who have technical degrees, and that is a limited pool that is fiercely sought after by several firms.”
The firm also provides hands-on training for new hires and encourages them to develop quickly, Desmarais said.
“The key is to train the young lawyers and then give them responsibility right out of law school,” he said. “Younger attorneys can grow their skill set very fast if given proper training and opportunity. In our view, millennials will stay at a firm if they are given exciting work and exciting opportunities for growth.”
The firm’s flat-fee billing approach also enables young associates to attend depositions and court hearings as part of their training because clients will not be billed additional hours for associates’ attendance, Desmarais said.
“As a result, our lawyers develop very quickly from their regular attendance at actual depositions and arguments in combination with our twice-yearly mock deposition, argument and trial training,” he said. “Although they start by watching, soon enough they progress to doing – rapidly gaining real-world professional skills.”
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