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Law Firm Website Design Companies : The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


 The name of Greenwich resident Patricia A. DeWitt's business says it all: lawyersforless.net.

In such a litigious society where attorney fees can cost as much as $1,000 per-hour and many individuals and families are feeling strapped by the rising cost of living, DeWitt is convinced that her "E" law firm will be the wave of the future with Web surfers - and anyone in need of an effective attorney at an economical price.

"The time is right for an Internet law firm," DeWitt said. "People can save a lot of money shopping on the Internet, so why not save a lot of money on the services of an attorney?"

While she has numerous reasons for launching a Web-based law firm, paramount among them is the desire to spend time with her 11-year-old daughter, Annie, a student at Glenville School. "I have my daughter's interests in mind," DeWitt said. "She's very excited. She's my biggest helper. She's my biggest fan."

A single mother, DeWitt enjoys working out of the home because it provides her more time to be with her daughter, who is adopted. With that background, part of DeWitt's focus is on assisting those interested in adoption through the legal process.

"Once I adopted, as an attorney I became extremely interested in the resources that are available to people who seek to adopt," she said. "I am dedicated to advising and assisting persons interested in adopting or having their infant adopted."

She also handles product liability, medical malpractice and negligent matters. Those type of cases, though, can take years to resolve, so they are taken only after agreeing on a contingent retainer. DeWitt does not handle criminal law.

"A small contractor knows it costs the customer more money to hire an attorney than the customer could get back in small claims court," DeWitt said. "Affordable legal representation might help those who don't want the hassle of personally appearing, but want the satisfaction of getting back whatever was rightfully theirs, up to the $5,000 limit of small claims courts."

With word quickly spreading about lawyersforless.net through articles published in local newspapers, DeWitt has cases coming her way. Some are simply small business owners who want to craft a better contract, others involved motor vehicle accidents. The common denominator, though, is that her clients are "savvy professionals" with little spare time on their hands.

"I'm really very impressed with the clients," she said.

Perhaps the most widely followed set of rates for attorney fees is what is called the Laffey Matrix, which is available from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, and is updated each year. The hourly rates are shown by years of experience. For June 1, 2006 to May 31, 2007 the rates are as follows: 20+ years of experience, $425 per hour; 11-19 years, $375; 8-10 years, $305; 4-7 years, $245; 1-3 years, $205; and paralegals/law clerks $120.

Hourly rates are increasing almost every year and some lawyers charge substantially higher than the rates shown by the Laffey Matrix. Consider, the first attorney in the U.S. to regularly charge a four-digit hourly fee ($1,000 and higher) was Benjamin Civiletti in late 2005.

With a resume that dates her professional law career back two decades, including serving as an enforcement attorney for the New York Stock Exchange before beginning her general practice in 1993, DeWitt can certainly charge more per hour. Yet she has decided quality of life and time with her daughter is more important to her than making a killing. Some attorneys have called her nuts, she said.

DeWitt's hourly rates were initially $70 per hour, yet after reevaluating her expenses and the amount of time she puts into cases (hours of research), she decided on an hourly rate of $140.

"In this day and age it's just really interesting to see that even with doubling my rates, I'm going to still be half of some of the lowest rates."

Further, there is the matter of combating a widely held societal belief: "Primarily, people think they get what they pay for."

DeWitt, certified to practice law in both New York and Connecticut, wants to focus on clients in Westchester and Fairfield counties because they are close to home and she is familiar with the courts in these jurisdictions. But with the lack of geographical boundaries on the Internet, lawyersforless.net could grow into something much larger than a single-mother's humble practice. "We could create a network," she said when asked about the potential for growth. "I suppose something can be done about it."

"There is life after the law firm," she reminds aging attorneys.

For information, visit www.lawyersforless.net or call DeWitt at 532-4120.

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