Tyner Law Firm practices law a little differently. For starters, innovative programs are offered to clients, particularly small business owners, that reduce hourly rates for files not closed in a certain amount of time. Soon, clients will be able to review cases via secured access on the Internet at the firms’ Web site.
“Let’s say we have an arrangement with a client to pay us a certain amount of money for a case,” said Mitchell H. Tyner Sr., founder of Tyner Law Firm in Jackson. “At the point where we have expended that amount of money in time invested in the case, we will not get additional funding until we reach another level. However, if we resolve their claim before we expend the initial amount of money, we do not refund the difference. That gives our law firm incentive to resolve the claim in half the time, therefore, basically doubling our rate. On the other hand, there’s a disincentive to stretch out the case. We will not pick up any additional funding until we have expended more time. At that time, they get a 50% cut in rate and we start losing money. This plan has been in place for a year and has been extremely well-received.”
Clients will soon be able to view their case files through a secure Internet connection on the company’s Web site at www.tynerlawfirm.com, using Case Map, which analyzes facts and evidence, Tyner said.
“A lot of times, clients dump cases at your door and they don’t see what’s going on until the case is over,” he said. “Because all litigation cases are fact intensive and there’s a possibility of error, clients can help by reviewing the case often, at their convenience.”
Tyner Law Firm, which made the move from West Government Street in Brandon to 5750 I-55 North in Jackson on April 20, has a staff of three in-house attorneys, offices in Pascagoula and New Orleans and a networking capability of a dozen more attorneys, enabling associates to offer a variety of legal services not provided by the firm. Areas of in-house practice include healthcare law, agriculture, environment and insurance.
“We handle auto wrecks, but only major catastrophes, no ‘cash for whiplash’ cases,” said Tyner.
Before he opened shop in 1995, Tyner, a Canton native, graduated from Mississippi College School of Law, studied environmental law at Tulane University and was a partner in a prominent local law firm.
“When I was in my first semester of college, I was a church activities major, and my Granny, who was a fine Southern Baptist, was delighted,” Tyner said. “Then, I decided I was leaning toward law and she was just appalled. One day, Justice Pittman from Hattiesburg, who was in her church and was the family lawyer, sat on the front porch with Granny in a swing and told her it was OK, that we needed Christian lawyers, too. After he told her that, it was OK.”
Tyner came up with the idea of offering clients incentives after observing an attorney become the client in a pending litigation case.
“It’s much like seeing the doctor becoming the patient,” he said. “It was eye opening. I believe businesses have been hurt by the way the system is set up, especially when they become defendants in lawsuits. If they get sued and don’t have in-house legal expertise to tell them what must be done and what isn’t necessary, they’ll hire law firms to represent them. Most attorneys representing these companies do everything they can to fully represent their client. Yet, because my law firm does primarily contingency fee-based cases from the plaintiff’s perspective, we don’t always cover every detail. We cover the big points to get to the end quickly whereas, if there’s no incentive to do that, most law firms drag it out.”
If a client company says no holds barred, law firms look under every stone.
“But a lot of those stones don’t need to be looked under,” Tyner said. “They could possibly be relevant somehow, but the consequence of that is a huge legal bill and a case pending for years when all they want is a conclusion. In answer to that, we came up with a system that’s incentive-based.”
Discoveries are almost always extended past the 90-day period, and discovery periods can often grow into years. When asked for relevant documents to a particular case, there may be only 100, but a law firm might send 100,000 documents. “We call it ‘dump trucking,’” Tyner said.
“It’s an hourly lawyer’s best dream,” he said. “They love it because, how hard is it to read a document? They’re just clicking off their time and that’s not good. That’s what people are paying hourly for.
“In the legal field, we forget how stressful it is to be involved in a lawsuit, whether you’re the plaintiff or defendant, because suddenly your life is an open book,” Tyner said. “People are picking and prodding at you under a microscope. It’s not a position anyone wants to be in, and I think lawyers — we, as a profession — forget they’re dealing with lives. These people need matters over with, to have the case closed.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or (601) 364-1018.