Nicole Nehama Auerbach





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Nicole, by Nicole

It's been more than 9 years since I left my BigLaw partnership position of 15 years and we started Valorem. Other than minor tweaks, my old bio has been largely unchanged. Not a great example for someone who considers herself a change agent.  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, it was a leap of faith. I often 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 had a 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.  When we were named one of the "Top 22 Firms Delivering Alternative Fee Arrangements" in 2016 along with firms like Bartlit Beck, Kirkland & Ellis and Wilson Sonsini, it certainly validated the leap we took to make alternative fee arrangements mainstream. 

In the time since we started, we've learned so many lessons:  
  • Clients care about results, not hours. Quality, not quantity.
  • Clients want shared risk, diversity and efficiency, they don't want lawyers who boil the ocean to make a cup of tea. 
  • Budget certainty is imperative. Clients now are demanding it. Don't they deserve it?
  • Discounting an hourly rate is not an alternative fee.
  • Today, nearly every firm in America says they use alternative fees, but for so many, they simply reverse engineer a billable hour estimate and then add 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 equal 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 beginning;
  • 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 -- civil litigation in federal and state courts and in arbitration across the country.  That includes: breach of contract, fraud, legal malpractice, defamation, copyright infringement and wrongful conviction actions and more. But now my focus is on results, not the 6 minute intervals I used to bill the clients. I am most proud of a recent $13.4 million jury verdict following a 5 week federal court trial in favor of a client who was wrongfully convicted for a crime he did not commit.

I've also had ample opportunity to flex my creativite muscle.  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 rebels at our core and the legal industry is simply too complacent.  I am grateful for the experiences I have had and for those who have been in the trenches with me. Who knows, when I revise my bio again, it might be from my Valorem rocket ship. Me and Orville and Wilbur Wright.