Lawyering for Small Businesses
“Php 3,000.00 a month to retain a lawyer???!!” One of my clients who is a small business owner asked with both excitement and doubt. By small, I mean she has less than 10 employees and a certain level of annual income.
The Negros Oriental Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines sets the minimum amount of Php 3,000/month for retainer contracts. You can check the rest of the minimum rates for legal services at my site.
When I moved from Manila to Dumaguete, one of my major goals was to focus on small to medium businesses — the people who have the potential to grow Philippine economy by pursuing their passions. So for small businesses, I stick to the minimum rate most of the time (exceptions are made for small businesses that have big problems).
I also advocate for rate transparency and I try to influence young lawyers to charge fair rates and yes, issue receipts. All the time. Many people come by with very simple problems and they’ve been carrying it for years simply because they thought legal advice and legal services were expensive.
What does a Php 3,000/month contract give to a small business? To answer this, I asked one of my clients. Her reply: “Peace of mind and fast service.”
As retained counsel, I am practically on-call at reasonable hours. I draft contracts, notarize documents, and give legal advice for their business transactions. As a personal advocacy, I also visit their establishments to explain employment contracts to employees so that they would understand both their rights and obligations (the latter part, many employees really forget).
My client said that for the past years, she would wait a week or more before her contracts can be finalized. Sometimes, she has simple questions and she wished she could just immediately call someone. She was also spending Php 2,000-Php 2,500 a month just getting her contracts notarized.
Note however that the retainer contract does not include services that involve the handling of labor cases and other cases before the Office of the Prosecutor or the courts. Separate acceptance fees are charged for that.
I’ve met so many small business owners, online and offline, since I moved to Dumaguete. Working with people who just need the law to help them grow their business is quite inspiring. They just want contracts that are responsive to their needs and they want to get fast and good advice that will not slow down their business and every day work. It’s the kind of lawyering I personally love. Less anger, more hope.