One of the most common difficulties for people getting involved in a legal dispute is that they generally have no idea how much their lawyer, and the case they are facing, will cost. It is a difficult issue for lawyers too, who are not able to advise clients on how much to expect to pay. This is because of the nature of legal work. The outcome is always uncertain, it can be difficult to estimate in advance how much work is involved, and the traditional method of billing by the hour offers inexperienced customers almost no guidance on how much they're going to have to pay. While for some more simple matters, a lawyer will be able to give you a price for the whole job, this will usually be qualified by a statement advising that if the job becomes more complicated for some unforeseen reason, the price will go up.
There are some tips you can follow however if you want to make sure you get good value from your lawyer. Given the fees most lawyers charge these days, it's difficult to imagine a situation where you wont.
The first thing you should do is always meet the attorney. Many will offer free consultation sessions where you can both assess the situation and decide if you would like to proceed. This offers a no cost opportunity to get to know the lawyer and see if it's someone you would be happy to work with. Another reason for meeting the lawyer is that many will not even quote a provisional fee until they have had the chance to meet you in person.
One common practice for trying to control your legal fees is to ask your lawyer for a retainer. This is a rough estimate of what they think the work will cost. It is not however their fee. They will clock up the time spent on your case and charge you by the hour just as normal. And if the fees go above the retainer amount, this is what you will have to pay. The retainer is little more than an initial estimate. You should also be suspicious if the retainer seems very low. It is likely that the lawyer is simply quoting you a very low retainer in order to get your business and has little or no intention of staying within it.
Negotiate. Many lawyers are willing to vary their fees somewhat in order to get business. You should therefore, not be afraid to negotiate with them. It never hurts to ask.
You can ask for an alternative billing method. If you are very uncomfortable with the hourly rate your lawyer may offer a flat fee. This will not be cheaper than the hourly method, in fact it usually ends up costing a bit more. But it will give you the security of knowing what the total price for the job is. Another option is to give the lawyer a limit of what to spend. He should then not carry out work beyond this limit on your behalf without contacting you first.
At the end of the day, lawyers are expensive, so you should only be speaking to one if you are certain that the case you intend to pursue is worth the commitment in time, effort and money. This is the most important question to ask yourself before handing over money for a lawyer's services.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.