Flat-Fee Will Get You Somewhere
With Sheri Hoidra, what clients see is what they get
Published in 2024 Maryland Super Lawyers magazine
By Artika Rangan Casini on December 13, 2023
As a flat-fee attorney, Sheri Hoidra is no stranger to disbelief from fellow lawyers.
They ask: “How do you do it? How do you sustain it? Aren’t you getting taken advantage of? You realize you could be billing more, right? What’s your incentive?”
She answers: “My incentive is not making a client pore over something I’ve done 20 times and know I can handle.”
Hoidra’s eponymous solo firm handles matters related to immigration, family law, auto-related personal injury, criminal defense, wills, powers of attorney, and advanced directives—with all itemized fees (“what I do and what it costs”) listed plainly on her website.
“My goal is to sustain my life by helping as many families as I can without jeopardizing their lives and livelihoods,” she says. “The philosophy is simple: Before you enter into a contractual relationship, you should know how much you’re going to pay.”
Of course, cases are inevitably nuanced. Depositions in family law are not standard. The filing processes between immigration court and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are different. So, Hoidra quotes fees that can adjust for various circumstances, “the weird, strange situations that could arise.”
“Clients love that,” she says. “It helps them understand the possibilities and know that I’m not sneaking in fees later.” It also helps strengthen the relationship.
“Clients are like family,” Hoidra adds. “If they have a question, I don’t want them to think they have to keep things short because they’ll get charged.”
Her mission is rooted in her own history. Hoidra’s father is a musician and was an associate dean in Iran; her mother was a singer. Shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 rise to power and subsequent barring of women from singing or performing, her father joined thousands of Iranians actively seeking to escape. With three daughters and a son, “he knew that there was absolutely no future for his girls; that if he was blacklisted in his home country, there would be no education for us,” Hoidra explains. “He escaped with $200. I was 1 at the time. My first words were, ‘Baba, kojast?’ Where is dad?”
At the time, he was in Turkey—then, eventually, America. In Maryland, her father purchased an ice cream truck, earning enough money to hire an immigration lawyer who would help reunite him with his wife and children. They arrived in the United States when Hoidra was 4.
She recalls little from those days. “But I remember the stories,” Hoidra says. “I learned early that the immigration lawyer has a big impact on a family and its dynamics.”
For Hoidra’s family, Bethesda-based immigration lawyer Jan Pederson was the proof. On the day of her family’s interview at the consulate in Turkey, Hoidra’s mother and siblings were the only ones permitted to enter the building. “Only because it was Jan’s case did they take my family in, have the interview, and issue the visa,” she recalls. “Her impact on my life can’t be overstated.”
It is the same impact Hoidra hopes to make. “I love keeping families together,” she says. “It’s the best part of my job.”
She recalls the first time she brought an asylee child from another country to the U.S.: an Iranian girl who hadn’t seen her father in years. Then there was a nurse who had established a longstanding career in America when her citizenship application was denied. “They were going to uproot her entire life for something that was very, very difficult for her to understand, much less prove, without counsel,” Hoidra says.
Hoidra seeks to practice the message she preaches to up-and-coming attorneys: Don’t aim for perfection, aim for results. Do good work and the clients will come. “I’m not a gatekeeper. I tell everyone how I do things,” Hoidra says. “It’s scary to hire an attorney without knowing what you’ll pay in the end. When you buy anything, you know how much it costs. Why shouldn’t the same be true for law?”
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