This law firm finds ways to control clients’ cost.
Innovation. It’s not a word most people would associate with a law firm, certainly not one as historic and prestigious as Taft Stettinius & Hollister.
But innovation is exactly what’s happening on the 17th floor of the Kettering Tower in downtown Dayton, where the law firm’s Dayton office is headquartered.
Just as many of the businesses outside the firm’s windows have learned to innovate in order to survive in today’s economic climate, Taft Stettinius & Hollister is quickly learning it too must innovate in order to better serve its clients.
One of those innovations is using a flat-fee structure and packages to help control costs for clients, says Jeffrey A. Mullins, partner-in-charge of Taft Stettinius & Hollister’s Dayton office.
That innovative approach to charging clients for its services was a result of listening to its customers, says Mullins. “We’ve had a couple clients say, ‘We know we do better when we call you and ask you questions before we make decisions regarding our employees. We know that. And sometimes we need to call you a lot and sometimes we don’t call you, but would there be anyway that you could give us a flat fee for doing that over the course of a year with the understanding that we could call you whenever we want and you won’t charge us for all those calls?’”
Mullins says the law firm agreed and the new flat-fee structure has been beneficial to its clients.
So just how beneficial has the new fee structure been for Taft Stettinius & Hollister’s clients?
One client, as an example, decided to save money by not calling and asking questions before implementing changes in the workplace, Mullins says. It certainly saved the clients money in terms of legal fees, but only in the short term.
What the client discovered, says Mullins, is those decisions it made without consulting with the lawyers at Taft Stettinius & Hollister resulted in lawsuits and administrative charges filed against it by employees.
“So we had this discussion with them about a flat-fee system and it’s been interesting,” says Mullins. The law firm just completed its first year with the client under the flat-fee system and the client had just one administrative charge filed against it by employees. No lawsuits were filed against the company during that same time, says Mullins.
By implementing a flat-fee system, Mullins says companies are able to control their legal costs much better. “Clients would like to have more control over their legal fees,” he says. “They want to talk to you about how you can help them control those and how you can build more certainty into their budgeting process,” says Mullins.
“That gives them some assurance that it’s going to cost this amount and that’s one thing we’re doing that I think is innovative to help clients,” he says. “I think we’ll see more of that. I think in the current economy, you have to be able to innovate, listen to your client and see what are their needs.”
Another innovation the law firm has implemented to help clients control their legal costs is the creation of a system and processes for litigation services.
The first part is understanding what a “win” would be for a client, says Mullins. Does a “win” mean the client is completely victorious and the other side gets nothing, or does a win mean a settlement can be reached and, if so, what would that settlement look like, he says.
By understanding exactly what the client is seeking during litigation, the law firm is able to deploy its people and resources more efficiently, which helps control the client’s costs.
That collaborative approach to help the law firm’s clients control costs is also beneficial for the firm, Mullins says.
“Keep in mind, some of these clients, they’re going to have other issues. If they feel like you’re a partner with them and they can trust you on this they may give you other work,” he says.
Other work is just what the law firm, which was founded in 1885, has in mind. The firm recently added two lawyers to its Dayton office to enhance its estate planning, corporate and tax practice areas, says Mullins.
Mark Feuer, a graduate of Yale University and the University of Dayton School of Law, is an expert in both corporate and tax law, says Mullins.
“Some of the most successful tax and corporate attorneys in Dayton are people that have that ability to walk on both sides,” says Mullins.
“He can look at a project from the very get go and say, ‘I’ve done both of these things and I know the right way to put this together is with this tax structure and with this corporate structure,’ and those two things fit like a glove,” Mullins says.
The newest attorney at Taft Stettinius & Hollister is Brittany O’Diam Horseman, a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Akron School of Law with expertise and experience in estate planning, says Mullins.
Horseman is compassionate and committed to making sure a client’s needs are met, says Mullins. She also brings that innovative approach to controlling a client’s costs by using a flat-fee system, he says.
Clients know how much it will cost to get a certain type of will or how much it will cost to get a certain type of trust, he says. Horseman also offers estate planning packages, which includes services such as updating documents, like wills, on an annual basis or a certain number of consultations a year on a particular issue, says Mullins.
“We’re really looking forward to have her joining us,” he says.
Taft Stettinius & Hollister has eight offices in five states: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Chicago, Ill.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Northern Kentucky; and Phoenix, Ariz. In addition, the firm has an established Japanese practice based in the United States.
The law firm is ranked among the 2015 U.S. News Media Group Best Law Firms.