Last month I was meeting with a potential client who agreed that our services and team provided the necessary skills and expertise to get them the outcome they were hoping to achieve. They agreed the price was fair, but then offered us “double or nothing” contingent on a successful outcome instead of a traditional billing arrangement. As a firm we declined the offer, because we believe the prospect of contingency fees conflict with our professional ethics and values.
At Broadview, our values are clear:
We provide a service, not a gamble. We exist to help our client’s fulfill their needs, not to take a commission on their success. It is our client’s narratives, not their money that drives our push to get them results.
Accountability and transparency are two words that governments around the world are using on a regular basis to challenge cynicism about politics. From travel and hospitality costs to meetings with lobbyists, government officials are expected to be open about how they spend taxpayers’ money and how they spend their time.
As part of the increasing push for accountability and transparency, many Canadian jurisdictions have developed rules for lobbying. These rules address both the interactions between both lobbyists and politicians, and lobbyists and their clients.
An important part of these rules and regulations is the source of funding for lobbying activities and use of contingency fees to pay lobbyists.
Some lobbyists have developed a poor reputation over time as part of a wider discrediting of the influence of special interests. Despite this, citizens’ ability to access to Government officials is an important part of our democracy. Lobbyists can and often do provide an important service and a professional expertise that helps interest groups determine the best approach to take when seeking a resolution or agreement with government, and can help create conditions for a win-win arrangement for both parties.
Contingency fees are widely seen as a shady business practice. They are banned in many jurisdictions due to the potential conflict of interests that arise. Lobbyists who stand to earn money only on achieving a successful outcome are more likely to resort to any means necessary to achieve that outcome. As a result, the ethical lines can easily become blurred.
At Broadview, we are strongly opposed to contingency fees as their use discredits the profession and present an inadequate reflection of the work, which Broadview and other firms do on their clients’ behalf.
Effective lobbying requires a significant investment of time, skill and resources. Lobbyists must be able to discuss their clients’ work at length and be prepared to argue effectively in favour of their interests. Building community support, earning media coverage, preparing research, and organizing meetings and follow-ups all require time and effort.
Contingency fees do not accurately reflect the work done on behalf of a client and are an inefficient use of a client’s resources.
At Broadview we work hard on behalf of our clients to achieve the best possible outcomes because we believe in them, not because we’ve got money riding on the outcome. We believe in our clients and work hard to deliver success that is earned, not bought.