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Family Law Attorney Fees are Too High

Family Law Attorney Fees are Too High

By Jeff J. Horn – Ocean County Family Lawyer

Family Law Attorney Fees are Too High

Although I make my living from collecting attorney’s fees, I agree that the attorney fees are too high. However, you control your attorney’s fees a lot more than you think. For example, collecting documents, dates, and addresses and reviewing documents from the opposing side can all be done by you – for Free. Get systematic about your family law case. Review documents in the relative calm of your own home and avoid calling your lawyer on a whim. For example, if letters or papers filed with the court  bother you, make an in-office or telephone appointment. Since we agree – family law attorney fees are too high –  first, try the paralegal.

A telephone appointment typically takes ten or fifteen minutes. Conversely, an in-office meeting, takes between 45 minutes to an hour plus your travel time. And, do not forget your family lawyer’s more extensive preparation time.  In the office, you cost the lawyer more money.  Staff must attend to you upon your arrival and while you wait, you are using facilities and drinking water, all on the lawyer’s dime.  Save yourself money by writing your thoughts and concerns down, emailing them in advance, and addressing them in list form at these telephone conferences or in-office meetings.

When it Gets Emotional

Many divorcers get emotional and call their lawyer two or three times to address how they “feel”.  Oftentimes, the issue may be something that has been discussed and, perhaps, has already been ruled on as an interim order by the judge. Care about how much you spend in Family Law Attorney fees:

  • keep your Family lawyer  interested in your case;
  • keep your concerns relevant;
  • address issues in an organized fashion. 

You will get better service from the office staff and will not be classified as someone who calls every time a perceived slight occurs.  In other words, you will have credibility with your own lawyer.  

Lawyers are human beings and are more apt to fight battles they can win and take on causes in which they believe.  When a client obviously lies to me or offers me observations that are completely out of left field, that person’s credibility goes down. Concurrently, thelikelihood of pleasing that client goes down as well.  The attorney-client relationship is headed in the wrong direction.

Think About More Than The “Attorney Fees are Too High”

I never advise a client to pick a lawyer based solely upon the fees being charged.  You may be able to get away with a lawyer charging you lower hourly rates if your case is characterized by extremely low conflict, a desire by both parties to get the case to a conclusion quickly and fairly, and a desire on both parties’ part to continue in a friendly fashion, post-divorce.  Given that baseline, most reasonable, decent lawyers can help you get your case to an efficient resolution.  If you have more complex financial issues, you will need more specialized legal representation and likely other professionals.

Consider Two Factors

First, you must be comfortable in speaking to your lawyer.  

I urge every potential client to consider two factors in determining who to choose as their lawyer.  Comfort arises out of a match of personalities.  If you are an aggressive, loud, combative type of person, you should attempt to secure a lawyer with a similar personality.  In contrast, a more relaxed, laidback person ought to seek a lawyer who offers a personality on that side of the personality scale.  Comfort must also come from a confidence that you are being heard by your lawyer. Likewise, when the lawyer asks you probing questions, you do not take it personally, become offended, or clam up to the point where you do not share the information necessary to prosecute your case.

Secondly, you must share a match in goals with your lawyer.

Any decent divorce lawyer will ask you your goals in a resolution of your case.  The question may be actually a series of questions:

  • Where will the children live?
  • Will you see the children or will the other parent see the children?
  • What will you do with the marital home?
  • How much support will be paid?
  • Who will provide medical insurance for the children? 
  • How will the revolving debts be addressed?  You get the idea.

Once you have committed to doing a lot of legwork yourself, to having confidence in your lawyer as a professional who is on your side, and to finding a match for your goals, you will now be thinking about fees.  Normal consumer behavior is to attempt to obtain the best product at the best price.  Now, fees will depend upon what happens, i.e., how many times court is delayed, wasted time at the courthouse, the opposing party or lawyers becoming ill, and unreasonable demands or conduct popping up unexpectedly during the middle of the case.  All of those things will drag out the case and wind up costing you more money. 

Stay objective, you cannot control these things and neither can your lawyer.  Do not count upon the opposing party to reimburse you when the attorney fees are too high if you are the unreasonable one who drags things out.  The key to spending money on legal fees is obtaining value.  Remember, a low hourly rate and more hours will cost you just as much as a higher hourly rate where the work is performed by the law office in an efficient manner with you as a partner in the process each step of the way.

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Thanks to Horn Law Group, LLC intern Noah Hilsdorf.