So far as I know, the tradition of paying attorneys by the hour is older as the Abraham Lincoln quote: "A lawyer's time and advice are his stock in trade". However, I am putting a new spin on our 16th President's quote by stating that paying for time only encourages a waste of time. Now, I am going to get letters and comments from attorneys telling me to keep my mouth shut and maintain the status quo. But, why should I...? I am in business to handle my clients' divorces. If they want to vent to me on the phone about their divorce, why should I charge them $500 hour? If they need a motion filed, should I just take longer to do it so I can bill more hours?
The following are my Top 3 reasons I handle my clients' divorces on a flat fee basis:
3. Budgeting: By paying a flat fee for legal services, clients can maintain a budget. They know the cost of their divorce up-front, no surprises, no hidden fees. Divorce is hard enough to get through emotionally without having to be a modern day Nostradamus attempting to predict the cost thereof.
2. Expediency: Many attorneys out there in the field love love love when their case is called last on the Court calendar for the day. Why...? Because if they arrive at 9am and their case isn't called until 12noon, those are three hours billed to the client. There is no sense of urgency on their parts to get their client in and out. This is a serious infringement on both the client's time and money. Clients should not be held responsible for a Court's scheduling woes, and attorneys should not be able to get rich off of those very same woes.
1. Settlement: If you are a typical client, you are usually of the mind set to settle your matter in such a way that the divorce process does not take 3 years of your life. Also, you are looking at your bank account dwindling with each monthly bill from your attorney's office. An attorney billing hourly asks: Why would someone getting paid by the hour want to relinquish the cash cow of being overly litigious? Why not file another motion? Why not postpone Court dates or settlement conferences? After all, each of these things are billed for. If you want to resolve your divorce and make a fair settlement, there are less hours to bill - which is the antithesis to the hourly rate.
Now, I realize that this article may be controversial and be akin to a magician revealing how a trick is done, but, in the interests of client service, it had to be done. Clients deserve respect and know that their attorneys actually care about them, not just the bottom line. If this makes me unique or a "legal rebel", then so be it. I welcome all of your comments, criticisms, questions, insights, or pictures of me being burned in effigy. Welcome to the new legal world - even if I am the only current resident.