How It Started
I have been practicing law in Virginia since 1996. Since 2000, I’ve focused my practice solely on family law—including divorce, custody, visitation and support.
I have always found a great deal of satisfaction in working with my clients to help create some stability for their family during what can be a confusing, difficult time. However, before opening Evolution Divorce & Family Law, PLLC (“Evolution Divorce”), something about my work didn’t feel quite right.(this is probably a good place to place a read more link; put the rest of the article in the full post)
Many law firms bill their clients by the hour, which I did at my prior firm for many, many years. Over time, I observed how the hourly-billing model made a stressful time even more so for family law clients. Worrying about how much the bill was going to be at the end of the case was an additional stressor my clients didn’t need or want. On the contrary, they were seeking certainty, so much so that potential clients would frequently ask at the very first meeting, “How much is this going to cost?” Under the hourly-billing method, I just could not give my clients an answer they could rely on. It bothered me that I couldn’t answer one of their most important questions at the very beginning of our working relationship.
I created Evolution Divorce in 2017 to reduce my clients’ anxiety and provide them with more certainty during a very uncertain time.
By the end of your first consultation at Evolution Divorce, in all but the rarest of circumstances, you will know the price or prices for your matter should we agree to work with one another.
For example, if you hire Evolution Divorce to negotiate and draft a written separation agreement with your spouse, file a “no-fault” divorce, or appear on your behalf in a Juvenile Court, we will provide you a total price for that work.
I chose the name “Evolution Divorce & Family Law” because that’s what the divorce process can be for our clients—an “evolution” from a point in your life where things may seem scattered and broken, to a place where things finally begin to stabilize.
Even if your case involves contested litigation in the Circuit Court involving many issues where the parties can’t seem to agree on anything, you will know the exact prices for each potential step in the court process before any work begins. You will also understand what each potential step is, and why we may want or need to take that step, at the start of our working relationship.
By removing uncertainty created by charging an hourly rate, Evolution Divorce’s pricing model also effectively removes a barrier that sometimes prevents lawyers and clients from building a closer working relationship. For example, in my experience, some clients wouldn’t call me when they perhaps needed to because they were concerned about being charged for every conversation we had. At the same time, I may have wanted and needed to hear from them, about something that might have been relevant to their case, and at the time that it happened rather than weeks later. From what I observed, the hourly-billing model has the potential to create a disconnect between lawyer and client, which is in neither the client’s nor the lawyer’s interest.
Evolution Divorce’s pre-agreed, fixed pricing model seeks to create a closer, more transparent working relationship between lawyer and client, unfettered by external concerns about future, unknown billing and unexpected costs.
As a lawyer, this model allows me to focus on you and your priorities, rather than how much time I’m spending on various tasks, while also motivating me to maximize efficiency.
Further, Evolution Divorce bears some risk in the relationship not present under an hourly-billing model. We do not bill clients by the hour for our time spent working on your case; we simply put in the work necessary to do the work you hired us to do. If it takes longer than we expected, then we bear that risk, not the client.
For our clients, our pricing model attempts to provide clarity and stability by reducing, if not eliminating, clients being charged for unexpected costs along the way.
For the lawyers, we hope to create a solid, clear relationship at the very beginning of a case based upon mutual understanding and agreement, reducing uncertainties and surprises that can adversely impact our working relationship.
How It Works
The Initial Consultation
We start by learning about each other within a confidential setting. You have all of the facts and we have the knowledge and experience you seek about the divorce or other family law process. Both lawyer and potential client will have a lot of questions. By the end of our conversation, we will know whether we are able to help you, and how–which will then allow us to come up with a plan, and give you a price, for whatever work we agree we are going to do for you.
Evolution’s Pre-Agreed Pricing Model
Under the Pre-Agreed Pricing model used by Evolution Divorce, the timer is not running. You can call, text, or email whenever you need to without adding to your bill. Our goal is to provide you with peace of mind, reduce your anxiety, and take away the uncertainty about how much your divorce is going to cost—that question is often answered at the beginning of our working relationship.
We can’t remove all uncertainty, however. Divorce can be an emotional and complex matter and plans may need to change. As the process moves along, should unexpected changes occur, we may need to discuss those with you and agree upon an adjustment to the original pre-agreed price. But we address this change up front — you will never have to wait until a bill is sent later, for some unknown and unexpected amount.
The “Typical” Case
A client’s first and most important question often is, how much will my divorce cost? Or, a variant of that question, how much does a “typical” divorce cost?
In reality, a “typical” divorce case does not exist, in my opinion. While there are many similarities among all cases that I’ve seen over the years, the many potential variables–length of the marriage, whether there are minor children involved, how much and what kind of marital property exists, the level of acrimony and distrust between the couple, just to name a few–can substantially affect the price for your matter.
A relatively simple case (for example, a couple in their twenties that has been married for six months, owns very little property, has no children, and can still talk to each other quite easily) may take very little effort to resolve and the price would be relatively low compared to more complex cases.
Contrast this with a litigated divorce case filed in a state Circuit Court where the parties can’t reach any agreements and need a judge to make rulings on the division of assets, custody of children, and spousal support (alimony), for example. This type of case — where there is a lot of disagreement and the parties can’t reach a resolution without the help of a judge — requires a lot more work and time to resolve in court, and therefore the price would be higher.
How We Arrive At Pricing For a Particular Case
While I cannot give you a “typical” price here for handling a divorce case, because every case is different, I can explain how we determine a price quote.
Based on my years of experience handling divorce and family law cases, at the end of our consultation (or very soon thereafter), I am able to assign a fixed price for the work involved, either for the entire scope of my work, such as drafting a separation agreement, representation in Juvenile Court, or filing a “no-fault” divorce; or in the discrete tasks of handling a contested divorce in court, such as taking depositions of relevant witnesses or appearing at court hearings.
By the end of the vast majority of my initial meetings with clients, I can provide these price quotes. For some complex cases, I may need a day or two to think over the details before coming up with a price.
If we agree to work together, we will enter into a Pre-Agreed Pricing Agreement which will contain all the prices we’ve agreed to and a description of the work Evolution Divorce has agreed to do on your behalf. All prices are known at the beginning of our working relationship.
If we agree to work together, the agreed-upon price is to be paid in advance before any work is done on your matter. We will deposit that amount into Evolution Divorce’s trust account. Our Pre-Agreed Pricing Agreement will specify when we may move the funds from the trust account to our operating account as earned amounts.
Evolution’s Service Pledge
Evolution Divorce is committed to exceptional client service. If we don’t provide a high level of service – good enough to earn your referral to others – then we will provide you with the opportunity to adjust the price.
Certainly, it is our hope that you are completely satisfied with the level of service you receive so we truly hope to earn the entire price paid. But if for some reason you are not, you should not have to pay the entire price.
Our pledge is a service guarantee only – NOT a guarantee of any particular outcome. We cannot guarantee an outcome, but we can guarantee the level of service you receive from Evolution Divorce while we represent you.
In offering the Evolution Service Pledge to our clients, we are incentivized to work diligently on your case.
We are further incentivized in how we get paid.
The Pre-Agreed Pricing Agreement you sign with Evolution Divorce states we will not be paid the full amount of the agreed-upon price until the very end of our representation. We know you don’t want your case to linger indefinitely. By withholding final payment until the end of our representation, we hope to show you we are incentivized to keep working on your matter diligently and completely. However, that final payment is also contingent on your satisfaction with our level of service. By maintaining a portion of the original price paid in our trust account, it is available should there be a reason to apply the Evolution Service Pledge. Now, we hope to earn all amounts paid so hopefully our level of service is more than satisfactory.
And So: Why Evolution Divorce?
I believe Evolution Divorce’s Pre-Agreed Pricing is a key differentiator between Evolution and other law firms that bill by the hour. This does not necessarily mean that the cost of your divorce proceeding will be low, but it will be known. The stability that this provides can be invaluable during an incredibly difficult time, and should significantly reduce the stress of going through a divorce.
Moreover, because no timer is running, you can feel free to call, text or email whenever you have questions or want to discuss your case. Open and easy communication hopefully creates greater trust between lawyer and client, and improves your overall experience in working with an attorney.
As a lawyer, changing my pricing model from billable hours to a pre-agreed price has shifted my view of my job. When I worked for an hourly-rate law firm, one of my primary goals day in and day out was the number of hours I billed.
Now, my approach to my work is dramatically different: what are my client’s goals, and how can I best achieve them? What value am I adding? What work needs to be done?
Whether your goals include finalizing a signed agreement, filing a contested divorce in the court system, or just trying to gain some control over an incredibly uncertain situation, your goals are my goals.
It’s not about billing hours — it’s about progress toward goals and objectives.
Quality of Representation
Evolution Divorce’s Pre-Agreed Pricing model incentivizes us to reach your goals in the most efficient way possible, not only because that is often in your best interests, but also because reaching the final goal results in our final payment. However, our Service Pledge ensures that we will not cut corners, because providing you with excellent service along the way is our number one priority. You are not sacrificing the quality of your legal representation in order to obtain Evolution Divorce’s Pre-Agreed Pricing.
The Name “Evolution”
Finally, I chose the name “Evolution Divorce & Family Law” not only because my business model represents an “evolution” in the way family law clients pay for legal representation, but also because we recognize that’s what the divorce process can be for our clients—an “evolution” from a point in your life where things may seem scattered and broken, to a place where things finally begin to stabilize.
-Chris Macturk, Founding Attorney, Evolution Divorce & Family Law, PLLC