VOL. 123 | NO. 76 | Thursday, April 17, 2008
Memphis Law Talk
Ferrell Law Firm Aims For Open Relationships With Clients
"By doing a flat-fee basis, everything is out front, and we're very open with our fees."
- James K. Ferrell
Name: James K. Ferrell
Position: Founding Member
Firm: Ferrell Law Firm
Basics: The Olive Branch-based estate-planning, probate and divorce law firm recently opened an office in Germantown.
James K. Ferrell is the founding member of Ferrell Law Firm PLLC, which recently opened an office in Germantown. The firm also has an office in Olive Branch.
Ferrell, who chairs the firm's Estate and Family Law Practice group, said he operates the firm differently from many other firms in several ways.
Rather than charge by the hour, Ferrell has implemented a flat-fee billing plan for estate-planning services - one in which clients work with Ferrell to choose their own fee. He also focuses on an individual plan for each client when aiding with estate planning.
Q: What inspired you to practice in estate planning, probate and family court law?
A: Well, I had a background. I used to own a small family investment advisory firm, and ran that for five years before I decided to go back to law school, which is something I'd always wanted to do. I went back to law school with the intent of owning an estate- planning advisory law firm. I wanted to make some changes and do things a lot differently than most people do around town.
Q: Rather than charge by the hour, you have implemented a flat-fee plan for estate-planning services. Why did you choose to operate this way?
A: Well, the main reason is when you work on an hourly basis, the clients tend to shy away from calling you, because they are scared they're going to be on the phone with you for 15 minutes and two weeks later, they're going to get a bill for $75 in the mail. By doing a flat-fee basis, everything is out front, and we're very open with our fees. We actually allow our clients to choose which fee they want to be charged. Then, going forward in the future, they can call us as many times as they want and ask questions about their plan, and we're happy to help them. And they know that there's going to be no back-end charges. So it keeps the communication very open between us and our clients, and we feel it lets us do a better job of working with them.
Q: In what other ways is your firm different from other firms?
A: We're going after a younger client. We, of course, have some estate-planning clients that do have higher net worth - in the $10 million or so range - but our bread-and-butter client, the client we really want to work with, is someone between the ages of 30 to 50 years old, have children still in the household with them, and they really just need to take a look and make sure that their wishes are known, and their children will be taken care of if something happens to them. I try to work with someone who's just like myself; they're married, they have children at home. And we want to make sure that their families are taken care of, that their wishes are known, and help them in the future.
Q: You've written books on probate planning, divorce and asset protection. If you could give one piece of advice to people planning their estates, what would it be?
A: Don't let the courts decide what happens to your estate. Make plans.
Q: Have you seen a drop or a spike in your clientele lately due to the situation with the economy?
A: Well, I might not be the best person to ask that. We're a new firm, so we're growing each day, and getting more and more clients every day. We have a lot of people that come to us because they like the way we work, how we have a family atmosphere here at the office and our flat-fee pricing. So it's hard for me to say that things have dropped off when, as a new firm, we're growing by leaps and bounds each month.
Q: Is there any case - historical or current - that you would have liked to have been counsel on?
A: I would have loved to have been counsel on the eminent domain case that recently came up out of Connecticut, Kelo v the City of New London. It's a case where the city took over several blocks of private property to turn it over in the best interest of the state for eminent domain reasons and to try to get building and structure involved. I would have loved to try that case. Outside of the estate-planning business, we also have a real-estate title company, and real estate's a big part of my life. My family's in it, my wife is in it, my father-in-law owns his own large construction company here in town, so I'm very tied into the real-estate business as well; that's why that interests me.