The most famous lawyer’s letter/Der berühmteste amerikanische Anwaltsbrief

When the attorney Becky Klemt Macmillan in Laramie, Wyoming wrote to fellow-attorney Stephen G. Corris in Irvine, California asking him to enforce a judgment, she was not expecting the reply she received:

bq. Without sounding pretentious, my current retainer for cases is a flat $100,000, with an additional charge of $1,000 per hour. Since I specialize in international trade and geopolitical relations between the Middle East and Europe, my clientele is very unique and limited, and I am afraid I am unable to accept other work at this time.

Ms Klemt need not have spent time on a reply, but her letter is described as the most-photocopied lawyer’s letter in the USA. An excerpt:

bq. Steve, I’ve got news—you can’t say you charge a $100,000.00 retainer fee and an additional $1,000.00 an hour without sounding pretentious. It just can’t be done. Especially when you’re writing to someone in Laramie, Wyoming where you’re considered pretentious if you wear socks to Court or drive anything fancier than a Ford Bronco. Hell, Steve, all the lawyers in Laramie, put together, don’t charge $1,000.00 an hour. …

bq. Another thing you should know, Steve, is that the firm has an extensive foreign language background, which I believe would be useful to you. Hoke took Latin in high school, although he hasn’t used it much inasmuch as he did not become a pharmacist or a priest. Vonnie Nagel took high school German, while Paul has eaten in Italian restaurants. I, myself, majored in French in college, until I realized that probably wasn’t the smartest career move in the world. I’ve forgotten such words as “international” and “geopolitical” (which I’m not too familiar with in English), but I can still hail a taxi or find a restroom, which might come in handy.

bq. Steve, let us know when we should join you in California so that we can begin doing whatever it is you do.

Read the rest here. The Laramie firm is Pence & MacMillan. Steve Corris’s real hourly rate was apparently $500. And the judgment has still not been enforced. Via Bag & Baggage, here and here.

3 thoughts on “The most famous lawyer’s letter/Der berühmteste amerikanische Anwaltsbrief

  1. I don’t wish to be a spoilsport. However, the retainer fee and hourly charges quoted by Steve may be deliberately meant as a ‘get lost’ deterrent. Besides that, they are not out of keel with fees, back in the UK, of top management accountants or fatcat lawyers in general & partners of City of London ‘Magic Circle’ Solicitors’ firms or leading commercial or admiralty silk i.e. QCs, in particular. Whether their pot bellies would allow them to stoop to recovering debts – not a job for the Bar anyway – I doubt.

  2. I don’t think you are being a spoilsport. It did appear that it was intended to deter the would-be corresponding attorneys, and I think I said his fees were actually $500 per hour. And I think Denise said herself you’d have to go to London to find those fees!

  3. Yes, thanks. I see now Denise’s ref. to London rates.

    What clients cannot be sure of is that a salaried or equity partner of the Solicitors’ firm actually deals with the case s/he bills for. In my day, the exhortation used to come from the foreign branches of a large international law firm that shall remain nameless: ‘Pls. deal with this case yourself internally, fellow-partner. Do not (lazily) resort to the usual trick of using an articled clerk/trainee lawyer from start to finish’.

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