Nicole Nehama Auerbach





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Nicole, by Nicole

It's been more than 9 years since we started Valorem and other than minor tweaks, my old bio was largely unchanged. Not a great example for someone who considers herself a change agent. So I wanted to write a new bio, but where to begin?

When we built the law firm in 2008 to give clients an alternative to the billable hour, to say it was a leap of faith is an understatement. I like to say that those of us who took that leap had a little Wilbur & Orville Wright in us. Though not quite the same level of physical risk as the Wright brothers took,we got a small taste of what that first test flight must have been like. Only time reveals if you will crash and burn or soar. That I'm writing this bio 9 years in tells me we at least made the clouds.  Being named one of the "Top 22 Firms at Delivering Alternative Fee Arrangements" in 2016 along with the likes of Bartlit Beck, Kirkland & Ellis and Wison Sonsini, certainly validated the leap we took to make using alternative fee arrangements mainstream. 

In the time since we started, we've learned a lot of lessons:  
  • Clients care about results, not hours. Quality, not quantity. Shared risk, diversity and efficiency, not "same old" or boiling the ocean to make a cup of tea. 
  • Budget certainty is imperative for clients. They have come to expect it from their lawyers.
  • Discounting an hourly rate is not an alternative fee.
  • Today, nearly every firm in America says they do alternative fees, but they do so by   reverse engineering their billable hour estimate and then adding a “cushion.”  We call this "wolves in sheeps' clothing." Don't be fooled.
As with Wilbur and Orville Wright, just having a great original idea does not equate to success. We draw on our experience from handling hundreds of cases using AFAs to hone what we do to achieve a successful outcome. On every case, that means: 
  • defining what “victory” looks like with our clients at the onset;
  • using business tools like decision trees, early case assessments and Valorem-created tools like “collab-o-storms” for the client’s benefit;
  • providing our Value Adjustment Line to allow clients to change the invoice to reflect the value of the services received; 
  • doing detailed After Action Assessments on every matter to identify valuable               “lessons learned” for ourselves and our clients.
The cases I handle at Valorem are very similar to the ones I handled when I was in BigLaw -- commercial litigation in courts and arbitration across the country. But now my focus is on results, not the 6 minute intervals I bill the clients.  I've also had ample opportunity to flex my creativity.  I created our Second Opinions practice and helped launch our AFA consulting practice. I am also thrilled to be a co-founder of ValoremNext, a sister business to Valorem Law, focused on prevention.  

Since 2008, I’ve learned there is no challenge we cannot overcome, no matter (or firm) we cannot successfully take on and no people I put my faith in more than those around me. As my partner and co-founder, Pat Lamb, often says, “Our worst day at Valorem is still better than our best days at our old firms.” 9 years in, that still holds true.

What will the next 9 years bring? Hopefully, more change, as we are change agents at our core and we know that a little "rebel" goes a long way. I am grateful for the experiences I have had and for those who have been in the trenches with me along the way.  Who knows, when I revise my bio again, it might be from my Valorem rocket ship. Me and Wilbur Wright.