I hear people complain all the time about the amount of money that they have spent on attorneys. They make the attorney out to be a villain, someone that scammed them out of a bunch of money and overcharged them excessively. These people often don’t realize or admit that they themselves might have something to do with how high their legal fees are. In this blog post I am going to discuss some of the things that clients do to drive up their costs: 1. Being high maintenance. Clients that call every day (or several times a day) to ask the status of their case and to ask questions or tell their attorney something usually get a rude awakening when they get their first bill. Attorneys charge by the hour, which means that we charge you for EACH phone call. We will let you know when something is happening in your case, so you don’t have to call and ask all the time. Also, when you do call us, write down all the questions you have so you can ask them all at once. We don’t charge you per question, just per call.
So 10 questions in one phone call will cost the same as 1 question in a call. 2. Poor communication. My preferred method of communication (as is most attorneys) is email. If we send you an email about something important and you don’t check your email for weeks we are likely going to have to call you to tell you to check your email. And then you get charged for the call AND the email. The same is true if we call you and you don’t answer or return our calls, then we have to keep calling you and charging you for each time. 3. Not getting us the information we need. Not only do we have to chase you around to get the information (you pay for the chasing), but we also may have to field questions from opposing counsel if they are looking for the information, or if it is court ordered. Then, not only do you pay for us to communicate with opposing counsel but you may also pay for us to go to court when opposing counsel decides to get the judge involved. 4. Calling with non-legal questions. I am a family law attorney. Because of that my clients ask me a lot of non-legal questions about parenting, communicating with their spouse, kids, etc. Not only am I not a parenting expert, my advice is far more expensive than most actual parenting experts. It will be much cheaper if you get a book, or join a parenting group or see a counselor. 5. Expecting miracles. If your attorney gives you an assessment of what you should be able to get, listen to her. We know the judges and the way that things work in the courts. Continuing to push forward with a demand for sole custody or exorbitant maintenance might just result in the judge seeing you as unreasonable and you could end up paying your former spouse’s attorney fees. So not only do your fees end up high but because you drove up the other party’s fees with your crazy demands you are responsible for those as well. 6. Doing stupid things. Stupid things would be things like not returning the kids at the court ordered time, or showing up at your spouse’s residence when there is an order of protection in place, doing drugs when you have your kids in your custody. There are many other stupid things out there that people do, and I guarantee that every single stupid act drives your legal fees up. Your spouse calls his or her attorney, their attorney calls your attorney, if there is a guardian ad litem they get involved, and often everyone has to go to court. So that one stupid act ends up costing thousands. Drama is expensive. Attorneys are happy to make money. But all of the things listed above are actually somewhat of a nuisance and probably not the way your lawyer wants to earn his or her fees. So if you are in a lawsuit or you are planning to retain an attorney, keep these things in mind so that you can save yourself some money and your lawyer some headaches. Barbara L. Graham Attorney at Law 7777 Bonhomme Ave Suite 1600 St Louis, MO 63105 314.725.7600 phone 314-863-0720 fax [email protected] www.BLG-Law.com