Hiring a Divorce Lawyer, Legal Fees
Following the initial consultation, you are now ready to hire a lawyer. You have narrowed your search to an attorney you feel is the right fit for you, but you are worried about legal fees. How much will it cost?
Unfortunately, every case is different and there is no way to predict, in advance, the exact cost of your case. When you hire a lawyer you are “buying” time, which gives you access to your lawyer to address your concerns. Once you sign an engagement letter and enter into a fee arrangement, this makes the lawyer available to you and less available to others. Most lawyers bill by the hour. You will be billed for all time devoted to and expended in your case. There is no way to predict in advance the volume of telephone calls, emails, letters, interactions with opposing counsel, experts, court hearings, appearances, etc., that will occur in your case. Although you are intimately familiar with the details of your case, having lived through it, the lawyer must investigate the facts. This process may take on many forms, including extensive review of documents, i.e bank statements, credit card statements, retirement documents, financial statements, taxes, deeds, wills, emails, school and medical records, if there are children, etc. Additionally, if there is a pending court date, this will result in additional cost, especially if there are outstanding discovery demands, witness/trial preparation, to mention a few. There is just no way to anticipate the flow of information, i.e. email exchanges, drafting, documents, settlement proposal, letters, pleadings, and the list goes on and on. If a lawyer quotes a precise fee, be wary. Lawyers bill by the hour and the hourly rate will vary based upon experience, years in practice, expertise in a given area, etc. If you are paying upwards of $400.00 per hour, the fees will quickly add up, especially if you are sending frequent emails, requesting a review of documents or constantly calling your lawyer to reiterate your position.
If you are calling or emailing your lawyer every day, STOP! You are now playing an active role in running the meter. To minimize cost, you should prioritize your concerns and contact your lawyer only if you have questions or concerns that cannot wait and require immediate attention. Do not get in the habit of emailing your lawyer every day to share things that can wait for an office meeting. Lawyers are busy but once you hire a lawyer, your case will be given priority status and you will have instant email access to ask questions, forward emails, documents, etc. It is tempting to maintain frequent contact with your lawyer, but remember the practice of law is a business and you are paying for a service.
Good lawyers want to maintain contact with their clients in order to timely address their concerns, keep them up to date, solicit their input and discuss each stage of the process. However, most lawyers will contact you only if they need information to move the case forward. Talk is never cheap when you hire a lawyer.
The next blog will address steps you should take to minimize legal fees.