Hello Mumbo Jumbo-ites!
At last, the awaited 2nd session of our new series entitled “Demystifying Legal Services” which is for the sole purpose of taking the anxiety out of your search for an attorney by giving you an inside view of the profession…cool huh?
In first session, I emphasized doing your own research prior to hiring an attorney. Further I suggested that you select a competent professional who practices in the area of your specific concern. Finally, I boldly asserted that you should not being afraid to pay for a consultation to get your preliminary questions answered because “you don’t know what you don’t know” and this may in most cases be $$$ well spent .
This Session 2 focuses on the ever lurking question of legal fees and how this question must be demystified because it one of the major sticking points faced by many who need professional legal advice.
The question of fees can be very daunting but in the end it can be looked at very simply. Having spent potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars and the best years of his/her life studying and thereafter sitting for Bar Examinations and Continuing Education on a periodic basis, most attorneys feel a profound need to be well compensated. The question I would pose to you, my faithful audience, is whether you should be more concerned with an attorney who is not charging what they are worth than the one who comes highly recommended with a price tag.
With that said, there are a few things about legal fees that you should know as a consumer.
First, the old method of billing is an hourly arrangement where the client pays a deposit into a client trust account and the attorney bills against it, usually by .10 or .20 hours and when the trust account is depleted the attorney requests additional funds. The problem is that this arrangement places the interests of the attorney and client at odds because the less efficient the attorney, the more $$$ he/she makes. Further, this kind of arrangement creates some anxiety for clients because they never quite know how big the price tag will be at the end. Still, there are circumstances where hourly billing makes the most sense. You should obtain an estimate of total hourly billings, if possible, prior to the commencement of services, and determine the hourly rates of the various personnel in the office. Remember, higher rates may be preferred as they may signify more competent counsel and more responsible billing practices…just saying.
Second, there are new trends emerging in billing practices which are called “value based” or “flat fee” billing and these can be a great alternative, especially in transaction law practice areas such as wills, trusts and estate planning, real estate, business law and similar non-litigation practice areas. To summarize, a flat fee arrangement will usually begin with a consultation (sometimes free) and a fee for the services will be quoted at that time. As a consumer, you just need to be sure that you understand what the flat fee will cover and the scope of the services to be performed. A firm may also offer various hybrid billing practices which should be discussed in detail prior to entering into any arrangement.
Third, a few more tips are that you should determine whether your initial consultation is free and whether your fee arrangement obligates you to pay costs such as recording, mailing or filing fees. You should attempt to obtain clarity with your chosen attorney prior to the commencement of services.
I hope this was helpful.
Until next time Friends…
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