Why Do Lawyers Cost So Much?

There is a lot of discussion about the need for lower-cost legal fees. This is an important discussion for lawyers to have, but I think it is also important to stop and reflect on why hiring a lawyer is so expensive in the first place.

The Real Cost of Legal Services

On top of the considerable cost of acquiring a law degree, malpractice insurance, business overhead, etc.—only some of which can be reduced by technology, procedures, and maybe even non-lawyer ownership — I don’t know if the public really appreciates what a lawyer agrees to do for her clients when we sign a retainer. In fact, I think some lawyers need to be reminded. It’s true that many clients just want to get out of jail or a contract or for their insurance company to pay up. But in order to do that, lawyers commit to much more.

What Happens When You Sign a Retainer

After a client signs a retainer with me, I look them in the eye and tell them “Okay, you don’t have to worry about this anymore. Your problems are now my problems.” It is just a thing I say, but it is a true thing I say. My clients go home and sleep soundly for the first time in weeks or months. I go home and think about the legal issues all evening. At night I dream about my client’s case. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat and pull up the scheduling order on my phone, convinced I blew a deadline. When I am at the playground with my kids, I check my email in case I get something from opposing counsel or the court. When I go out to dinner with my wife, I talk about hearings and depositions.

You may have heard the story about the lawyer who abandoned his Ferrari in rising floodwaters so he could make it to a hearing. Instead of taking the time to save his car, he abandoned it in order to get to court on time. Everyone was amazed except lawyers, who were like duh. Missing a hearing is not an option. As the lawyer who owned that Ferrari said, “You can’t let the client down, no matter what personal exigencies you might have.”

Lawyers are expensive because you get a lot for your money. You get someone who will abandon their precious supercar — or regular car — in rising floodwaters so he can attend your hearing. You get someone who will lose sleep worrying about your legal problem so you can finally get some rest.

Lawyers have a pretty singular value proposition. We take care of legal problems for our clients. When you sign a retainer agreement, our client’s problem basically becomes our problem. They can go back to sleeping through the night, and you start losing sleep, instead. You worry about where to find the paperwork or file the forms or how to get to the hearing while they go about their daily lives.

[N]obody thinks Facebook will really keep your secrets

This is why comparing non-legal products and services like Apple and Uber and Facebook to legal services doesn’t really work. Nobody would expect an Uber driver to absorb the cost of a parking ticket just so she can pick you up where you want. I’ve known plenty of lawyers who parked illegally to be on time for a hearing and eaten the ticket as a cost of doing business. Nobody expects an iPhone to absorb your stress and nobody thinks Facebook will really keep your secrets. Lawyers aren’t like tech companies, and they probably can’t be.

So as long as that high level of obligation is what you get for your legal fee, the fee can only drop so much. To reduce the cost of legal services past a certain point, you probably have to reduce the lawyer’s obligation to the client.

That is easy to say but another thing entirely to do. Our obligations flow from our rules of professional conduct, most of which we cannot ask a client to waive. All we can do is limit the scope of representation — generally called unbundling legal services. Unbundling can make a lot of sense for some things, but it is not a panacea for lowering the cost of legal services.

If the cost of hiring lawyers is really too great (and I am not convinced that is true across the board), we need other solutions, and they might have to include reducing lawyers’ professional obligations. So, just so we’re clear, when we talk about lowering the cost of legal services, what we are really talking about is fundamentally changing what it means for a lawyer to represent a client.

Originally published 2014-10-23.


    • Avatar Man says:

      The lawyer had a Ferrari? It shows to me that he is enriched enough to get a Ferrari, by his clients.

      You get a lot from a cleaning lady who works very hard to keep your million dollar mansions at a fraction of your salary. Dedication to clients and “how much you get” does not validate the insane amount of costs to pay a lawyer just to sign a paper, even though the dedication he/she has to have to learn to understand and argue in Legalese.

      I am not saying equal pay for equal amount in time of work. That would be communism and takes away our incentives. And I do see lawyers work pro bono for clients.

      But an average lawyer charge way too much for an average Joe. Even a quick phone call is charged at a premium. I was told doctors don’t get paid for phone calls with their “clients”.
      I see some insanely significant pay discrepancy. I just hope for a more perfect pay rate.

  1. Avatar Ramsey Hanafi says:

    Not to mention costs many attorneys (like me) absorb on the front end for contingency cases, which enables access for regular people to the court system. Just getting a case filed and served against a single corporate defendant in my county, for example, can cost upwards of $700. Or the court reporter’s fee in a recent trial of mine that was $15,000, which a contingency lawyer not only pays up front, but actively fights to have the client not pay by seeking fees and costs from the losing party.

    • Avatar James Jensen says:

      “Just getting a case filed and served against a single corporate defendant in my county, for example, can cost upwards of $700.”

      That sounds like a bargain. My lawyer charged me almost $5,000 to file and serve on non-payment for a confessed judgement in which the signer did not pay. The filing was riddle with typos, and he had my business name (the creditor) and the debtor’s name mixed up. This did not include court time. I was charged another $2,300 for that, when the other party didn’t even show up and the judgement was won by default.

      Also, my lawyer told me during the mediation that getting attorney’s fees paid was always next to impossible. He steered me towards a quick settlement in lieu of taking the matter to the police and AG where it should have gone in the first place. Lesson learned on my end.

      • Avatar afrommi says:

        I heard of a lawyer who really abandoned his car to get to a hearing because he had a very good insurance on it. There is no lawyer that will risk anything w/o good remuneration for it. It is of no wonder they don’t have a list of services cost or fees. With what they charge they can pay their student loans ten times over. Their house, their country club, schools for their children 10 times over too. Yet my brother is a lawyer & he does a lot of probono work. Why does he do it? Because, just because there is not law that makes somethings illegal there are many acts that are un-ethical. & one of them is to take advantage of the needs of others.

  2. Avatar James Bellefeuille says:

    Sam, this is one of the best articles I have read on Lawyerist. Although, I strongly believe there is room for improvement with how legal services are developed, the points that you make are sound and from a client perspective very valuable propositions. Cheap isn’t the goal, a win-win situation where clients are paying for valuable legal services, but also not paying for an attorney fees for non-legal aspects of their practices.

    • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

      The non-legal aspects have to built in – rent, employees, IT services, etc. You can’t just “not pay for non-legal aspects of their practices” or there is no practice.

      • Avatar James Jensen says:

        Many of us that run businesses have this same sort of overhead, and also have to pay for workmen’s comp insurance as well. Through in equipment maintenance, fleet, etc. and it really adds up. One difference is that I can’t charge my customers for travel time to their job site. One attorney I hired loved to charge me $300 per hour to travel from his office to superior court in the nearest big city at 1.5 hours each way. He would even tell me that he had a meeting in the city after my court matter, and didn’t offer to split any of the travel time between his matter and mine!

        • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

          We both know you build travel into your price. You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t.

          I split those charges. Your guy may too; he’s just bad at managing client perception.

          • Avatar James Jensen says:

            True, but I’m realistic about the travel time and realize that it doesn’t hold quite the same value to the client as actual work. 2-3 hours of billed work covers most travel costs sufficiently, and still doesn’t approach the $300 mark.

            Glad to hear you split it; that’s fair. And I agree, he is terrible at client relations and perceptions. He didn’t have an avvo page for a long time, once he created one I can see why he didn’t. Past clients weighed in and he gets 2/5 stars.

        • Avatar afrommi says:

          Greed is what drives un-ethical human beings.

      • Avatar afrommi says:

        I used to do taxes, and law is a busines. Businesses have the right to deduct every cost of doing business paid. That includes rental of office, pay to their employees, furniture, etc. They only pay taxes on net income not on gross income. They can even deduct money invested.

  3. Avatar Martin says:

    Wow, that’s powerful, thanks!

  4. This is very well stated and makes perfect sense. However, the majority of potential clients won’t care as to the ‘why’. It is for the regulating bodies to care and they will not give up or modify what it means to ‘be a lawyer’….at least not in our lifetimes. This stand off is the reason the void is being filled with non-lawyer providers at lower costs and the more entrants, the more resistance by clients to pay ‘higher’ legal fees.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      You are absolutely right. Law is a paternalistic monopoly (we’ll sell you what you need, not what you think you want). Except it is also a poorly enforced monopoly these days.

      But if lawyers chase lower fees, they are inevitably going to start shirking their obligations. There’s just no way to maintain a high level of professional service on Starbucks wages.

      (I’m already working on a post about this, actually. The disconnect between what lawyers sell and what many clients want is a significant problem that’s not solved by the advice to be more like Apple.)

      • Sam, my issue is not so much that lawyers should be ‘chasing lower fees’ but should be modifying the delivery of services (which reduces cost) AND providing what the client wants in addition to what they actually need and what lawyers are obligated to provide at a bare minimum. There is a difference there and it allows the lawyer to reduce their fees but increase their margins (which is more money in their pocket) AND it ups how much the client ultimately is willing to pay because they are receiving what they value above what the lawyer is professionally obligated to provide. The paternalistic monopoly is being chipped at and at the end of the day, money talks. Big money is wielding the sledge hammers so it’s going to be interesting.

        • Avatar justthebest says:

          I don’t understand what you’re suggesting, Susan. I feel like I spend most of my time trying to find a way to cut my clients’ legal fees without under-charging. There’s just no way to have a contested custody case, with proper discovery, with less than 30 or more lawyer hours (and I’m talking about a case that will settle, as 95% do). I do as much as I can to keep down costs, and use my paralegal as much as I think ethical, but at the end of the day, there is a ton of WORK to do for a client.

          • One of the major issues uncovered recently is that clients, before they ever see a lawyer, determine the value to them (what they will spend) to resolve a legal issue…including litigating divorce. It may not be based in any reality that you or I understand, but it is what motivates them to hire or not hire a lawyer. If someone puts an emotional or not fully educated cap on legal fees for a divorce, say at $5,000 and the lawyer doesn’t learn this about a client, the relationship doesn’t work. If a lawyer has a fixed idea in his head that in order for him to take on a client for a litigated divorce and the minimum he can afford to accept as a retainer is $10,000, it doesn’t work. This same lawyer, operating as if it were 1999 determines his expenses to bring on this client is $5k so he wants to make a $5k profit. This is the problem. If he operates his back office more efficiently enabling him to be equally or even more efficient in the delivery of his services, his costs to take on this same divorce might drop to $2K. Now, maybe he only needs a $7k retainer and then he can discuss with the client, educate the client to understand $5k isn’t reasonable for the amount of work and still maintain his same profit while delivering excellent advocacy. This is what I mean. It isn’t about cutting your hourly rate or required services to the client so much as cutting your expenses to do the same work while maintaining the same profit you would like or require.

            • Avatar justthebest says:

              I feel like we must be talking about vastly different types of practices. My bills are 85-90% just my time (and most of the rest is paralegal time). I use as little as I can to properly represent my client, but as I assume you know that has way more to do with the client, opposing counsel and his or her client than anything I can control. And the very idea that any lawyer is thinking in terms of “profit” is abominable. The profit is what is left after you pay everyone, and sometimes it’s not a lot. But, it never enters into the equation when considering a retainer. The retainer is nothing but my best (wild) guess about how much time this case will cost.
              I absolutely hear what you are saying about clients having fixed ideas in their heads about cost, but I do what I can to educate them when they come in about how much THEY will control that, and how little I can do to have any impact on it at all. That’s the most frustrating part. I can estimate a case will take 7-10 hours of time, but if the client calls and emails a lot, or is an idiot that has to be walked through every little step, or the opposing attorney is a jerk, or the other side is unreasonable . . . . etc., etc., that estimate is worthless. And, I have no control over those things at all. My greatest frustration is the failure of clients (and judges) to understand that simple reality.

              • No, I ran a family practice for years. Yes, when you calculate an hourly rate/take a retainer/value bill you do have to consider profit or you’re not running a sustainable business. But I’m talking about reducing inefficiencies in the back office. Learning to how to price the variables (opposing counsel is a jerk, the client needs his hand held, etc.) is about communication with the client about variables and setting the client’s expectations. It’s also about knowing when a client isn’t the right fit for your practice and more. That’s a total other subject. As to the back end, many family law matters do have similarities and their are products/services like Smokeball that can automate many of these documents yet tailor to your needs. This is a HUGE cost reduction. Law Practice Management software, etc. This is what I’m talking about.

      • Avatar Darren says:

        So lawyers shouldn’t chase fees, and in effect they should simply price themselves out of the market. (I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, I’m just trying to take the logic to its eventual conclusion.)

        That simply won’t do for young attorneys or for potential clients with medium-sized legal issues.

        • Avatar Sam Glover says:

          I’m definitely not arguing that. There is clear demand for lower prices. And the huge gap between those who can afford a lawyer and those who are poor enough to get a free one means we need new ways to solve legal problems for less money.

          But as we figure out what to do about those problems, we should keep in mind that it may not be possible to solve them with lawyers, at least not without fundamentally changing the nature of the attorney-client relationship.

          • Avatar Realistic Lawyer says:

            I don’t think it is the attorney-client relationship which needs to be changed, but the payment model. We need, as a profession, to begin strictly enforcing the collection of our fees, and not shirk from being upfront about the need to be paid for our work. The law is one of the last professions which retains a distaste for admitting that it is a business. The biggest issue I see in many practices is figuring out how to bill a client and be upfront about the need to be paid for our work.

            I am a lawyer. I like to represent clients and help them resolve their legal issues. I do not like doing it for free, or on the cheap. When I first started practicing, I would often take small up front retainers, and send the clients bills to be collected later. I would work out payment plans of $50 or $100 a month to pay for their fees. I ended up writing off 70% of my billing in my first year practicing.

            Many of the lawyers that I know, even after 10 or 20 years practicing, end up writing off 30-40% of their fees and billable hours by the end of the year because clients refuse or forget to pay for the work performed. Often, the only money we ever make on a case is the retainer. I know very few lawyers willing to take a client to court to collect on unpaid legal fees, and I believe this is a serious mistake in our profession. No attorney that I know likes to tell a client that they want to be paid to give a damn about a client. We like to think of ourselves as a noble profession dedicated to upholding justice, and helping our clients navigate a scary world of strange laws. Talking about money takes away from that image, its almost dirty to talk about money with a client. Yet, it may be the biggest disservice we do to our clients because we refuse to admit the real marketable value of the service we provide.

            How much less could we charge if we had confidence on getting paid our full fee? Why do we assume its wrong for us to insist on payment, or force someone to pay us for the work performed? People do not expect their plumber, or their auto mechanic to work for free and they should not expect an attorney to work for free either.

            • Avatar justthebest says:

              I am one of those people to whom you are referring, RL. I long desperately for the days when the solicitor got the money from the client, and placed it in the pocket in the barristers hood (many academic hoods still have this small pocket). That is how professionals were paid. Doctors and lawyers, traditionally, did not ask for money, but were paid what the recipient thought they were due. That was plenty when people were wealthy, landed, and generous. Then, “everyday people” started needing lawyers and they didn’t know about how it worked. Lawyers had to start asking for money. It took a very long time for that to be a direct discussion though–it was still handled by the solicitor until the last hundred or so years. So, yes, I detest having to discuss money, and more than anything about this profession, I detest clients who think I am overpaid and don’t pay their well-earned fees. I have no doubt about the fairness of what I charge, but short of handing out some version of this article to all clients, there is a limit to what we can do.
              As far as suing for fees, I do it. My insurance carrier hates it, and I’m sure my rates reflect it. There will ALWAYS be a counterclaim for malpractice (because it’s their only possible defense, and they know it). So far, I have always been able to have those dismissed by summary judgment, but the cost of these suits is not insubstantial, and too often the judgments I get end up worthless. (Client bankrupts, has no assets, moves, etc.)
              We earn the money and we deserve it. We spend 2x the time we bill thinking and worrying about these cases. But, collecting money is the worst part of being a lawyer by far. It’s the only reason I am looking forward to retirement. If I knew I’d get paid, I’d work for many more years. But the battle is just not worth it.

              • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

                God bless you and your quest to hold people accountable to their agreements. You’re an asset to the profession. If people just paid like they promised, this would all be a LOT less stressful.

      • Avatar al frommi says:

        It would not be Starbuck’s wages. But it doesn’t have to be $500/hr. to design a letter which he says may not yield any results.

  5. Of course many of us can increase efficiencies where possible. (ie. not charging clients .10 a page to kill trees when we can go digital)

    But this is so right on.

    We can go home, but we can’t put down your “cases”. We absorb our client’s problems. We wake up in the middle of the night sweating case strategy. We think through our cases in the shower. Before bed. At the dinner table. At the park with our kids.

    And we don’t bill for that. Or perhaps its built into pricing structure.

  6. Avatar Jordan Furlong says:

    Sam, this is an excellent distillation of the tremendous value that lawyers bring to our clients. I agree that our primary service is to take the weight of responsibility in complex, high-stakes situations off our clients’ shoulders and place it on our own. That’s our key professional deliverable, and I’ve rarely heard it phrased better — nicely done!

    I do have one quibble, though — I don’t think that our value to clients is the main driver of the price of our services. I’d ascribe that primarily to the nature of the legal services market, principally the limitations placed (naturally or artificially) on the range and type of suppliers.

    Any product or service is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it, no more and no less. If nobody can offer anything close to what lawyers provide, then we’ll continue to charge a lot for what we do, and rightly so. If someone can offer the same or similar services as lawyers, though, that changes the equation. It’s no coincidence that legal fees already suffer in areas where competitive or substitute services are available, while they stay elevated in areas where, either through regulatory edict or subject-matter complexity, lawyers are the only game in town. Many lawyers already charge less than they feel their services are worth because of these kinds of competitive pressures. That might not be fair, but markets usually aren’t.

    Your post is a terrific description of why people *should* pay lawyers a lot of money, and every lawyer should deploy it in fee discussions with their clients. But why people actually *do* pay us a lot of money is, I think, ultimately more a function of market realities. Our challenge is that a lot of people are pushing hard right now to change those realities — and they’re off to a pretty decent start.

  7. Excellent article, thank you so much, Sam! This message must be spread. Do we have your permission to translate that article into German language and post it on our website http://www.viehbacher.com?

  8. Avatar John Gordon says:

    This is such bull crap. Which lawyer on here actually has had a dream about their clients legal problems?? Which one said I want to go to law school to help people ? I doubt any.. Most if not all said let me go to law school for preatige , for money, for a nice title. I call bullshit on this whole article. A bunch of bull jargon. I have dealt with many lawyers and they were all worried about money. I paid 6000$ for a custody attorney that eyeballed my watch and bracelet in his office to determine how much he was going to charge. He just didn’t know I noticed. All for him to not even open the letter the g.a.l had sent him and almost cost me custody of my son. I run a small business and I have the same type of overhead any lawyer does. I place lawyers right next to politicians a den of thieves and this is how many if not most Americans feel trust me.

    • Avatar CMB says:

      Josh: to answer your questions:
      Which lawyer on here actually has had a dream about their clients legal problems?? Which one said I want to go to law school to help people ?


      As an owner of a private practice, the amount of time I spend prepping and dreaming about a case far exceeds what I bill my clients. Although I can’t speak for every attorney, I do know there are many of “my kind” out there…and we’re usually not the ones making the big bucks. We do it for the love, not the prestige.

    • Avatar J Miller says:

      Mr. Gordon:

      I have had more dreams about clients’ legal issues than I can count. And yes, the lawyer’s obligation to a client plays very high on whether or not I take a case. Just ask my wife if it affects my sleep and my out-of-work family and social time.

      In most jurisdictions, if a lawyer decides he wants “out” of the case because of anything ranging from client isn’t paying fees to the client is a horrible client, only the Judge can decide if it’s ok for the attorney to be “out” of the case.

      If I could unilaterally pick to get “out” of a case at will; I would be able to afford to cut my hourly rate in half and I would take on MANY more questionable cases with the understanding to the client that the MINUTE you are late on an invoice I am out of the case. But, it doesn’t work that way (nor, I believe, should it).

      And frankly, in my jurisdiction, $6,000.00 isn’t even close to an “expensive” custody case to pay for a lawyer. I wouldn’t think a custody case expensive until it was into the $15,000+ mark. It’s not uncommon to see high five figure to six figure custody disputes. It all depends on how hard each side chooses to fight and how they expend their resources.

      I seriously doubt the lawyer changed his hourly rate based on your bracelet and watch. Your level of affluence, though, *might* have played into setting his initial retainer. Wives (or bio-mothers) of affluent families will typically hire stronger lawyers and fight harder than opposing parties with no financial resources. This means that your lawyer has to factor in a stronger fight (meaning more hours worked, more $ and time commitment).

      Not to mention, families with resources actually have something to fight about as opposed to families with little or no assets. I generally base my retainers off of my best guess of the case’s complexity (meaning, my firm’s time commitment to your case) in which I generally have very few data points to rely upon. Frequently, the retainer is the only amount of money I’ll make on a case even if I work more hours than the initial retainer.

      Lawyers are no different than any other profession; a few exemplary lawyers, many decent to good lawyers, and a few bad apples.

      • Avatar Guest Dude says:

        When this custody lawyer found out the client was self employed his fee went up. Self-employment can be a nightmare for child support issues because a large number of “small business owners” are tax cheats so determining income is extremely hard and involves the application of numerous rules as to what is and isn’t income. There’s another dimension to the fight he has to be paid for. And jerk former clients bad mouth you when they lose. I charge a jerk premium for certain people based on personality and how demanding they are. Telling me all about how she’s already making false allegations and the break up was all her fault? Price goes up.

        The truth of the matter is that I am a good enough attorney to work all the time whether this one client hires me or not. So I will charge what it takes to motivate me to put up with your problems and your problems that you most likely had a large hand in creating.

        • Avatar J Miller says:

          I missed that part of his post; my retainer definitely goes up if one or both of the spouses are self employed and there are kids involved. There’s always a lot of discovery and motion practice on getting the real picture of the small-business(es) financials.

        • Avatar ?? says:

          Wait, WHAT? So you charge the “jerk” who vents a little about his wife more money than the guy who doesn’t? And…and HE’S the jerk? Look, I get it. You’re an attorney and not a therapist. But at the same time, divorces can be volatile situations and you’ve got to expect that sort of thing to some degree. Besides, maybe the “false allegations” thing is unfounded, exaggerated, or just altogether immaterial to the case. But perhaps the “break up” being her fault is something very relevant, something you need to hear. Was there infidelity, for example? But all you’re hearing is the cash register clanging because HE’S the “jerk” ? Don’t ever practice criminal law if that’s how you do business. My God, I’m actually horrified!

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      I don’t think you’re going to believe anything I say, but I don’t even represent clients very often these days and I still dream about my former clients’ legal problems.

      And for what it’s worth, many of my classmates went to law school because they wanted to work for non-profit legal services organizations, and did just that after graduation. Many others wanted to help people as a way of earning a living. It’s quite common.

      Actually, I’m probably the anomaly. I went to law school because it sounded interesting after I changed my mind about teaching, and I figured becoming a lawyer would probably enable me to buy me a Dodge Viper. I never bought the Viper (I drive a cheap compact), but I was right about the interesting part.

      • Avatar Thiago says:

        Nice to read somebody which had the same motivations as me (although I am more of an AMG kinda of guy) and ended up in the same place.

        Even after the desire for material goods has greatly diminished, be it because we grow older or wiser, or simply because we end up buying those things and not feeling fulfilled, the lure of Law School and the wealth of knowledge and experience it brings us still is more than enough to motivate a professional.

      • Avatar Joy Bertrand says:

        I’ve dreamt about my clients’ legal problems many, many times — when I haven’t woken up at 2 AM, turned on the light, and started writing out notes on the legal pad on my night stand

      • Avatar ?? says:

        Interesting. I too found myself at the teacher-lawyer crossroads, but I chose teaching. I think that I would really, really enjoy practicing law, but I just wasn’t convinced that law school was a wise investment at around the time I was contemplating pursuing the degree. Sounds like it worked out for you though, so, cheers! And hey, if you’re ever in CT, let’s grab a beer and live vicariously through each other! Ha

    • Avatar Lawyer in Texas says:

      Jjohn, don’t judge all lawyers because you had a bad experience with one! You are just wrong. I dream about clients and worry about them all of the time. Oh, and I charge a lot more than $6000 for a custody case. Unfortunately, as Sam implies, you get what you pay for. Lower cost = less service and less quality.

    • Avatar Jeff Taylor says:

      I’ve dreamed about my clients’ cases. And I’ve awoke well after mid-night in a worrisome sweat trying to figure out a winnable argument. I’ve had a number of occasions where I stayed up well after midnight and woke up even earlier to finish a response to a brief or motion.

    • Avatar DCS says:

      John Gordon, you have strong opinions about this. However, we do dream and fret and lose sleep over our clients’ problems.

    • Avatar finnitastic says:

      Dude, your case probably cost more because you’re such an a-hole. That much is clear from your comment. Believe it or not, your lawyer probably dreaded talking to you and your case was probably a pain to handle. You obviously did not get along with your child’s mother either, if there was a contentious custody case. Maybe take a look in the mirror and try to realize that you are the cause of most of your problems, instead of whining about lawyers.

      • Avatar flashwins says:

        He sounds like an a-hole?? Pot / kettle. Your sound like 1000x the a-hole he could ever possibly hope to be, even if he went to school for years for it and passed a three day long a-hole test.

        • Avatar finnitastic says:

          Jealous? Insecure? Sounds like it. Lawyers don’t have to accept cases and they can set whatever rate they want on a case by case basis. Your attitude would probably also earn you an asshole surcharge.

          • Avatar flashwins says:

            Yeah? Except that I won’t deal with an attorney that doesn’t have an up front and transparent pricing structure. And jealous of what? You? LOL… you’re a dinosaur, and the way you “price” your services will be gone faster than you can say “douchenozzel”

            • Avatar justthebest says:

              “Up front pricing structure?!” I’m as upfront as I can be—I’m charging you by the hour. YOU control a lot more than I do how many hours that is. It’s YOUR emails and phone calls that run up the bill. It’s YOU not properly completing the paperwork or reading the “how to” sheets I gave you that run up the bill. It is YOU turning down a perfectly reasonable offer or wasting hours in mediation when you have no intention of settling that run up the bill. MY preference is to reach a reasonable settlement as soon as we can and get you the hell off of my caseload. YOU are the one with the unrealistic expectations. But, fortunately, I can spot jerks like you a mile away and rarely get stuck with them anymore. Tripling the normal retainer will usually get rid of cheap asses like you. Thank goodness.

              • Avatar flashwins says:

                Mmmhmmm. You sound like a caricature comprised of all of the absolute worst qualities people see in lawyers. The open spigot model is DONE FOR. Roll with it, or roll up under it.

                • Avatar justthebest says:

                  Assuming you are intelligent (I’m going to go with that for now), how do you not understand the simple math of “flat fee structure?” In every case, someone will be screwed. If the attorney under-estimated the amount of time it will take, s/he is screwed. And, exactly what quality of work do you think you are getting if the lawyer is working well beyond what he or she has already been paid for? If I thought it would take 10 hours, and due to your unreasonable demands, or your spouse’s, or his or her attorney, or the judge, etc. etc. it is taking 25 hours and counting, I am beyond angry and resentful. So, next time I over-estimate the time to be sure this doesn’t happen, and it works. I estimate 25 and it takes 10! Woo hoo. Windfall. Only, in my case, I feel awful, because my client has paid me for time I didn’t work. That is totally unfair to both of us. Flat fees are fine if you have a simple will or real estate transaction, but for something as open-ended as a divorce (especially if children are in any way involved) is grossly unfair to someone every single time.
                  And, for anyone who thinks you would get good at estimating after a while, that is not true at all. After 30 years, I have yet to come up with any way of predicting accurately how long and how much work any given case will incur, and have yet to meet the attorney who can do that well.

                  • Avatar flashwins says:

                    Making this about me and my intelligence won’t change the reality that I have attorney-clients that utilize limited scope / flat fee structured billing for full on litigation in divorce matters. They break up the litigation into stages; fact finding, discovery, motions and trial; and charge for each accordingly. The American Bar Association published a step-by-step guide to using flat fees in the litigation process, breaking up flat fee billing in litigation into 7 stages.

                    Whatever hang ups you have about flat fee billing, you need to get over them, or hope the public doesn’t catch on before you retire in a couple of years. I’m assuming you’re older, because it’s generally the geriatric demographic that is the most opposed to flat fees in my experience. I’m sorry that change is scary for you, but it’s real, and it’s happening much sooner than you would like, no question.

                    There is another article here on The Lawyerist entitled: Four Reasons Billing By the Hour is a Competitive Disadvantage. You should read it.

                    • Avatar justthebest says:

                      Sorry, I guess I used words too big for you. I will use simpler words: “It is UNFAIR to someone, every single time.” I’m sorry if that is too complicated for you. I tried to explain why, but you just don’t get it. It has nothing to do with age or fear–it’s about fundamental fairness to the client and the attorney.

                      I admit that educating dumb people or the willfully ignorant is not my strong suit. I’m done with trying to educate you, as you are clearly beyond any hope. (And people like you are the very reason why no smart lawyer would ever represent someone like you on a flat rate. You don’t know when to just stop and admit defeat. You have to keep on making the same bad argument over and over, without addressing the merits of the other side.)

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      I don’t think you are as smart as you say you are. You take the position that flat fees for litigation are untenable. I proved to you that the American Bar Association promotes this practice to the point that they have articles to this effect posted on their site. They have gone as far as publishing infographics to try and teach old dogs new tricks, but some of you sadly, are just too old and incapable. I am frankly surprised you have mastered the internets sufficiently to type out your useless and incoherent diatribes based on anything but reality.

                      There is another article here on The Lawyerist entitled: Four Reasons Billing By the Hour is a Competitive Disadvantage. You should read it. But you won’t. You will be the same old dinosaur plodding along, doing what he’s always done. Ignoring that huge flat fee meteor aimed right at him. Meanwhile your practice is sinking and you have no idea why.

                    • Avatar justthebest says:

                      NOT “untenable.” UNFAIR. Are you not aware of the difference? Good grief. So, if I charge you a rate based on the assumption of 20 hours of work, you pay it, and it takes me 8 hours, you wouldn’t be outraged? If that is true, you are very unusual.
                      (And you don’t need to worry about my practice. I turn away more clients than I take.)

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      Outraged? Why? If you got the job done to my satisfaction and the cost was reasonably commensurate with what it was worth to me to resolve the issue, FINE. If you got it done in half the time, EVEN BETTER. It’s called value based billing. Avvo offers it, so does Legal Hero and MANY law firms all throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, in various areas of law. Welcome to the future.

    • Avatar Impatient_Bostonian says:

      I graduated from law school in 1989. I owed $32,000 in loans, which I understand is peanuts now but it was huge back then. I took a job as a legal services lawyer, working for a non-profit that provided free legal services to poor people. My starting salary was $19,100 per year. My loan payments were about $450 (interest rate was over 7%). My clients were the poorest of the poor, in dire situations. I worked long, long hours because I kept thinking if I worked a few more hours I could take another case and keep someone in housing, or keep food on their tables, or help them navigate the legal system. I left after 7 years, completely burned out and went to work for the government. Did I dream about my clients’ legal problems? All of the time. I worried about them and their kids incessantly. There are plenty of big firm or corporate lawyers making huge bucks, but they worry and think about their clients all the time too. Most people hire lawyers for unhappy things. There are adoptions and real estate transactions that are good things, but if you think about what most lawyers do – ugly litigation, divorces, child custody battles, etc, most of us don’t spend our days doing life-affirming things. We clean up other people’s messes. It takes a toll on us, believe me. I am never going to be rich, but I didn’t get into this to be rich. I drive a baseline Subaru. I live in a 975 sq. ft. house. I don’t take vacations. I chose this life, chose to use my talents to make a difference and help people. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with the legal system, but I can assure you that there are more good lawyers, lawyers who worry about their clients and fret about strategy and panic over missing deadlines than there are worried about how big their next paycheck is going to be.

    • Avatar anon says:

      I wake up thinking about my clients problems, and then working in the middle of the night when I have an idea all the time. My practice pays decently, but nobody would be in it if they didn’t care about the people they represent.

      Lawyers will always look bad, because we try and fix emotional problems with money. But you can’t fix emotional problems with money, so even when we win, our clients are still not put whole. We’re not like doctors who fix problems, we just try and give our clients enough money that their problems don’t seem so bad.

      I do what I do because I love it. I love working for my clients, I think I’m doing the right thing, I think I’m on the right side of the moral line. Yes, I’m in it because of the money, I need money to pay for my housing, car, food etc. But I’m also in it for the people. If I weren’t in it for the people, I would change careers to something that pays better with shorter hours and less stress.

      P.S. That lawyer might have been eyeing you, but not because it would change the bill, just trying to see who you are. As lawyers we get screwed by our clients from time to time, we size you up to prevent that from happening.

    • Avatar T. Rose says:

      Bold statement. I’m sorry you had a poor experience. However, I will not “trust” you or your blanket statement claiming to know what lawyers dream about or what their goals are. We are humans. With kids, morals, loves, struggles, and goals of our own. We have an entire second exam aside from the bar exam that literally tests us on our own ethics code, a code that we must follow or face being disbarred. Ethics are a HUGE deal for attorneys. Our clients’ lives are our lives. We take every one of their burdens home with us every day. I am not a bargain basement flea market vender handing out half-price divorce settlements and no-bills. I am a person that chose to spend my entire career helping other people through some of the toughest personal battles of their lives. And you are in the wrong place to bash a profession you know nothing about.

    • Avatar jking says:

      As a small business owner, I find it hard to believe you can’t imagine where the rates come from. You clearly don’t understand the concept of your lawyer’s overhead. To represent his ungrateful client, he had to pay for his office space, computers, furniture, utilities, bar memberships, subscriptions to legal services like research sources, software license so that it doesn’t take twice as long to keep up with a paper file, salaries for paralegals and assistants (would you want the guy with your child’s future in his hands hiring the cheapest help available or the most qualified?) and yes he’s got to pay himself too.

      And if you’re a successful small business owner, I’d hope that you were smart enough to understand the difference between a retainer and the actual fees. I won’t waste the words trying to explain it here. And for a contested custody matter, $6000 is definitely middle of the road for a retainer throughout most of the country. And as a small business owner, I’m surprised it wasn’t more because you guys always seem to be the ones who fall on money troubles when something else goes wrong. There are also very obvious reasons that having a small business directly complicates a custody matter.

      And you further your display of absolute ignorance of the inner workings of what’s going on in your case if you think hearings are all lawyers do. If the hearings are the only thing you knew about, that means your lawyer did great prep work and didn’t have to bother you with the preliminary problems.

      Given your low opinion of lawyers, I’d be willing to bet that you’d take exception to one coming in and criticizing the way you run your shop without actually doing any research, so why not grant us the same courtesy?

      • Avatar flashwins says:

        It’s not his job to understand his attorney’s overhead. You just sound too pompous for words.

        • Avatar KyuC says:

          He doesn’t need to understand it, but has to pay/share in it just the same; just as you do for any other goods or service that you avail of.

          • Avatar flashwins says:

            Except with respect to those other services, my cost isn’t open ended like a broken siva. And what do you mean he doesn’t have to understand it? Why then are issuing itemized billing statements telling a client what you did every 6 minutes of every hour? The billable hour is going the way of the dodo bird. Value based AFAs are the future.

            • Avatar KyuC says:

              Would you demand accounting from McDonalds for their electricity bills, salary costs, taxes, cost of goods, etc…, and how they priced their Big Mac, when you buy a burger? If you think that burger is not worth the buck they are asking you to pay, you have other options. The itemised billing represent the service provided, which is what you bought from the lawyer. If your burger is missing a pickle, you can complain.

              • Avatar flashwins says:

                That is patently incorrect. The bill itself with only a total would represent the cost of the service provided. The itemized bill is the explanation.

                • Avatar KyuC says:

                  It may represent cost to you, but to the lawyer, their itemised bill represent the particular service provided, and the PRICE of their service. If they worked an hour on your matter (.10 on this, .20 on that, etc…), and their hourly rate is $600 – then the total price of their service to you is $600. It’s no different than McDonalds telling you the price of the bun is $.30, the burger patty $.1.50, the ketchup…, and thus the total price of the burger is $2.50. …but in that case, do you really think the price of the burger patty just covers the price of the minced meat when they bought it from the butcher? Of course it also partly covers overhead, and there’s mark-up – but McDonalds is not giving you an accounting for that.

                  • Avatar flashwins says:

                    If I need a document review, or an appearance, or a ghost writing assignment done, I don’t care how many paper clips you needed or sheets of paper you printed. If I am quoted a range, my lawyer better damn well be prepared to explain why and how the cost of his service went from the low range to the higher range.

                    • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

                      I’m happy to explain it all a second time, for a fee. I explained it in the bill. It’s right there. Read it. Pay it.

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      Flat fees, transparent pricing, reasonable and affordable payment arrangements that work for ME, or I go elsewhere. As do the thousands of clients posting cases on Avvo, LegalMatch, FindLaw, Nolo, Lawyers.com, etc etc etc are doing. Sorry old timer. It’s a new day. Welcome to the internets. Be sure to leave your stapler on the way out.

                    • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

                      I get it. You’re a cheap ass who thinks that lawyers are completely fungible and that the only thing they compete on is price. Good for you. I don’t want your business. I’d rather let you drive some other poor sap out of business by taking over his life and refusing to pay. I prefer the clients that value my time and efforts as positive contributions to their businesses.

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      A sad testimony to your level of professionalism and maturity. Insulting me personally and using vulgar language. You are a sad pathetic relic who is out of his depth in the information age. I feel sorry for you. I picture you in a basement office, wearing ragged threads, and wreaking of stale scotch. Get your self together, and read Four Reasons Billing By the Hour is a Competitive Disadvantage. It’s here on The Lawyerst.

                  • Avatar flashwins says:

                    There is another article here on The Lawyerist entitled: Four Reasons Billing By the Hour is a Competitive Disadvantage. You should read it.

              • Avatar flashwins says:

                Without googling tell me how long lawyers have been using hourly billing? It was a failed experiment. And it’s going away, I promise you.

            • Avatar justthebest says:

              Not in my lifetime, for damn sure. Clients have way, way too much control over how much time a case will take to ever offer a flat fee. No lawyer can last with that model for more than a year.

              • Avatar flashwins says:

                Yeah right. Plenty do. Avvo has a section on their site for flat fees. Legal Hero does as well. Many, many attorneys offer flat fees and more will follow. You are a dinosaur pretending that big rock coming your way won’t do much damage.

                • Avatar Christopher M. says:

                  As with the other attorneys on here, I don’t see the rationale to offer a flat fee for all services as convincing. In some cases, such as certain drafting projects, it can certainly be an option, but for others where the representation has multiple moving parts with different costs attached, it makes no economic sense for the lawyer.

                  Cases involving litigation generally have multiple moving parts: deposition costs (length and number of depositions, for example), client phone calls (including the frequency of client calls to the office to demand updates or to inform you of some new rub in their case that they never disclosed ahead of time, actions taken by themselves or by the opposing party, etc.), service of process of the lawsuit (i.e., locating the opposing party, serving the complaint and summons, filing the affidavit of service, etc.), responding to opposing party motions, especially when the opposing party is filing them like crazy, conducting investigations and hiring experts, etc. The costs on each of these components can vary considerably, even if the attorney handling everything is keeping costs down by directing work to be handled by a lesser experienced attorney and supervising the work or having a paralegal handling certain aspects of it. The attorney has no control over how much additional costs are created by a client who voluntarily makes daily phone calls about their case, withholds information about their case that comes out later, or spends hours more speaking at a deposition, or does something like threaten the opposing party during the course of litigation. These all increase the costs of representation and are impossible to sell at a flat rate via an Internet based company such as Avvo or Legal Hero.

    • Avatar Guest says:

      You have attitude issues – not to mention the need for spell check. Just sour grapes like usual.

    • Avatar Mike says:

      You cheaped out on your custody lawyer. That’s a statement about your priorities, not on lawyers in general. Also, what kind of guy wears a bracelet?

    • Avatar C says:

      I quite commonly lose sleep over my cases as do a number if my colleagues – just as I imagine you lose sleep over your business. But this is not something that lawyers expect non-lawyers to understand. Is it too much to ask though that you don’t paint us all with such a generic and ill-informed paintbrush?

    • Avatar Damon says:

      That says more about YOU and the lawyer you chose. Most of my attorney friends that represent real people take on their clients problems in part. So if you noticed a scumbag eye-balling your watch you should have thought “let me find another attorney. ..fast!”.

      • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

        This attorney is not a scumbag, he got screwed. John is the kind of guy that comes in bellyaching about how wrong everything is and how he doesn’t have any money. The attorney looked around like “okay, so why are you in my office?” Then he saw the watch and the red flares went off like “there’s something wrong with this story”. The attorney ignored his gut, gave the guy a deal, and got royally bent over on the amount of time this case took versus revenue generated and THEN he’s got this guy running around trashing his work. This is why you either don’t take these guys like John on, or you triple your estimate.

    • Avatar thevisionist says:

      Please do not generalize, I guess it is the same in every industry or occupation, you have good cops and bad cops. You have doctors who want to save life and doctors who are money driven. Even if they are money driven, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It’s just who they are. You can call that money driven, or ambitious. It’s very subjective. Without ambitious people, you won’t get all the improvements in life now. You have people who are passionate in what they do, whether a lawyer or a cleaner. Don’t judge the writer just because of the bad experience you have. Every service has a price. There’s no free meal in this world.

    • Avatar Ms. A says:

      Its not bull. I lose sleep over cases, and I’m a litigation paralegal. There’s a voluminous amount of activity behind the scenes that you are not aware of. To get an attorney to a hearing or trial and fully prepared isn’t happenstance. We’re a team and its my job to lighten the load in the hopes he or she can get a little rest especially the night before a hearing. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m thinking about whether or not Federal Court is open the day after Christmas because I’m worried about missing deadlines too! It is completely ignorant to lump attorneys together and assume they’re all thieves! The majority conduct themselves ethically and frankly, $6,000 is a bargain.

    • Avatar Olga says:

      My attorney showed up late for my hearing and with stinky lunch breath;meanwhile I was sweating bullets. No apology for being late.

    • Avatar Antoine G. says:

      A lot of lawyers are very vested in their client’s cases. I know several who personally said they went to law school to help people, including me. And I’ve put that into practice working for Legal Aid in my state. If I went for prestige, money and a nice title I surely wouldn’t be working for a job that pays less than your average teacher.

      You came across a bad one, and if you hired him after knowing he was clearly out for money than you made a bad decision. I’m sorry for your situation, you cannot paint all lawyers, or even the majority of lawyers with a broad stroke because of your bad experience with one.

    • Avatar Clark says:

      I dream about files all the time. Sam is spot on.

    • Avatar Ron says:

      First, you did not have to hire that attorney. You could have found one that was less expensive or more to your liking. Next, I would have charged you much more, for a number of reasons (you’re a real jerk, likely impossible to work with and probably under claim your tax liability making for difficulties in assessing community property and support). To that end, I hope no one works for you again. You attitude is poor, you likely have problems often as a result and you lack common manners. I hope you raise your poor children with better manners than you possess.

    • Avatar Kerry O'Brien says:

      Find a better way to choose a lawyer. Unfixing life’s messes (e.g. a marriage with kids gone bad, a cirrhotic liver, etc.) costs money. You come to us with your life’s crap-bag in your hand and want us to fix it. Without us, you’re living with your crap-bag and sleeping with it under your pillow every night. The market thus speaketh.

    • Avatar Andrew Dosa says:

      Sorry to hear you felt your attorney did not take care of your case. But, back to your two questions, the answer is yes for me. Woke up at 3:00 am today thinking about two cases. And I went to law school because being an attorney was all I ever wanted to do and it would allow me to serve people. Just so you know.

    • Avatar flashwins says:

      Hmmm…. I went to law school PRECISELY to help people, and know many others who have as well. I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but not all ships are built the same, you know?

    • Avatar michae1803 says:

      It’s somehow not surprising that you were in an attorneys office for a custody case. Your cynical attitude would doom any intimate relationship. It is clear you have little respect for legal professionals — maybe because you read your own motivations into them. The fault, Mr. Gordon, lies not with your attorney, but with your self.

    • Avatar AOM says:

      You seem to be attracted to the wrong lawyers.

      I suspect you choose your lawyers based on whether they fit your bias of what you think a lawyer is and, as a result, you end up dealing with the few who do reside in the “den of thieves” with the bottom of the barrel of every other profession.

      If you saw the lawyer eyeballing your watch to determine what to charge you — next time, don’t pay it. Walk out of his office and go find one of the many honest and hard working lawyers who will charge you what they’re worth. The fact that there are people out there (you) who will pay these schmoes even when they (you) know they are rotten is why they are still able to practice. Stop paying them and start paying good lawyers and the bad ones will go away. Market forces at work.

      (Also, I talk to numerous law students every year who tell me they went to law
      school to “help people,” and I have co-workers who tell me about their
      dreams involving their clients’ legal problems.)

    • Avatar wcusmano says:

      Much more common, friend, is the lawyer who can’t imagine why his client can be so free with money in other aspects of his business life but who is so cheap when it comes to hiring the person he expects to solve his problems. Who doesn’t answer five phone calls reminding him to do stuff the lawyer needs to happen for the lawyer to do his job, but who then will call the lawyer immediately demanding to know why something isn’t done. Who has little appreciation for his own role in creating the “simple” problems he expects the lawyer to solve, blaming their intractability instead on the legal services. And then bellyaches about the bill. And when the lawyer cuts his fee, expecting no less, because lawyers are all crooks. As he sits in the lawyer’s office with his watch and bracelet.

    • Avatar Robert T. Hall says:

      You in a custody battle? With all that warmth, compassion and understanding?
      Hard to imagine. P.S. What, pray tell, is “preatige”?

    • Avatar Judy Flournoy says:

      The law is like any other profession. Some practitioners are good. Some are bad. I have personally known both kinds of attorneys. The good ones get
      Singled out by their clients who pass the word that they are conscientious and competent. They make a boatload of money but pay a higher personal price than most folk would be willing to pay. And, if you’re so sensitive to how your attorney decided how much to charge, why didn’t you leave your expensive stuff at home?

    • Avatar Facts&Law says:

      I can’t begin to adequately describe how much I agonize over my clients’ cases. I think about them constantly, and worry over every detail. I don’t bill 1/3 of the time I actually spend thinking about a case. That’s just the way it is. And when we sometimes get a bad result (which is inevitable) I beat myself up endlessly. Far more than is healthy. I’m an expensive lawyer. In at least one sense, legal services are like any other service: you get what you pay for.

    • Avatar Janey says:

      I frequently lay awake at night thinking of my clients’ cases and wondering what further actions I can take for them. I went to law school to help people but after several years of running my practice, I realized that I had to earn a proper living as well. I often give clients discounts because they cannot afford to pay regular fees. I work longer hours because of this. And there are times, when my client cannot afford to pay my fee, that I keep working in order to get a good result for them, trusting they will pay me after the fact, and then they stop paying their account and I am short thousands of dollars and they are judgment proof or they claim bankruptcy so that I never get paid. I totally understand that as in every profession, there are people who do not earn the fees they charge, but you cannot paint every lawyer with the same brush.

    • Avatar Dee says:

      I agree with Sam. You will probably not believe a word I say, but it needs to be said. Yes, there are a healthy quantity of lawyers like the one you mentioned. But trust me, there are MANY who are not like that at all. I went to law school later in life, and trust me…I did not do it for the money. In fact, I knew I wanted to be a public service attorney. And they do not make much. I worked so hard through law school it landed me in the hospital right after graduation. I graduated with honors, but nearly died, literally. Then I worked relentlessly in an enormously underappreciated job for years, serving the public and people who can not afford lawyers. You have no idea the seriousness of the obligations we have for our clients. I lose sleep constantly over clients, even some whose cases have been over for years. I cared too much, if that is possible. Once I opened my own small firm, I charged very little, but clients still expected the moon. It amazed me how grateful they were when I worked with them on price and payments [because no other attorney would do that], but then they NEVER gave me a break. They still expected me, alone, to do what big firms with tons of assistants do…and so did the Bar. People do not understand the pressures of being an attorney. You try to be a “good guy,” but clients expect miracles and the law does not work that way. You are honest with them about the law and they are simply mad as hell at you, like you wrote the law. They think you have a magic wand that you can waive and fix their lives, and when you can’t because the LAW will only go so far, they file grievances with the bar and you are in danger of losing your license to practice. [Not that I ever had that happen to me. But like Doctors, every client is a potential law suit or bar grievance and the pressure is great.] But I worked myself sick for people who only demanded more and more from me. But never wanted to pay much. I finally quit. Life is too short, and my health and happiness are worth more than this. I still have school loans to pay off, but I’ll suck that up for health and happiness. Again, people like you hire the wrong lawyers, and then complain. For now, I’m just over the whole mess.

    • Avatar justthebest says:

      You could not be more wrong. Most older lawyers were inspired primarily by Atticus Finch (the original one, not the new one), and I don’t know any lawyers that don’t spend huge amounts of non-billable time (awake and asleep) thinking about their clients’ cases. You are just determined to be cynical, which is your right, but you are dead wrong.

    • Avatar LouisaFinnell says:

      You may not believe me, but I’m in the business of lawyering to help people. I am the only attorney (also only one paralegal) in a small office. My clients are low income people who are mostly also victims of domestic violence, and they probably would not have an attorney if not for me. My fees are the lowest in town by far, and I will reduce them even further to help someone who really has nothing. Hate lawyers all you want. You don’t sound like you care to change your opinion. But I help people every day for low pay that is probably a LOT less than you make. Most of the lawyers I know are very decent people and they are not rich. They do a job they believe in. I’m certainly not rich. My Toyota Corolla is 17 years old, but I’m proud of what I do for people.

      I’ve never charged $6,000 for anything, but for a more typical private attorney, $6,000 for a custody case is pretty reasonable. I’m sure your attorney earned every penny of it.

    • Avatar Jared Austin says:

      I can tell you that I went to law school to help people. That was my reason; not to be rich, have a prestige, or a fancy title. Many of my colleagues were there for the same reason and still devote themselves to serving low income people who need legal help. They do this despite being able to leave and work for big firms or large corporations with a much bigger salary. I too have had dreams about clients legal problems, more than once. So you are wrong on your assumptions. You cannot judge or stereotype all lawyers based on the bad experiences you have had with one or two.

    • Avatar Christopher R. Kerr says:

      If anything, most of the people I know went to law school to help people.

      Given the number of pro-bono hours undertaken law firms throughout the US, UK and the rest of the world this is also evident in practice.

      I have done pro-bono work to help women, men and children to help free them from domestic abuse. I know others that have helped free innocent prisoners and right now many law firms are working endless hours to fill the access to justice gap left by a reduction in Government funding. Believe me when I say that these issues will make lawyers wake up in a cold sweat. If they get to sleep that night.

      We do earn good money from our bread and butter work – which is also very important. You are a small business owner and if that business was to go under you would be in deep trouble. Most law firms that work in the corporate and business sector deal with “bet the company” for small and big businesses on a daily basis. Where many jobs and livelihoods are at stake.

      For you not to receive custody of your son because your lawyer failed to do his job is unacceptable. So I get why you may have these views. I would be just as furious if the shoe was on the other foot.

      That said, I am getting pretty sick and tired of the reputation lawyers get based on poor media coverage and the malpractice of a select few.

    • Avatar ZorkDude says:

      You nailed it brother. I have hired around 6 lawyers in my life and I am sure none of them thought about my case for 1 second w/o billing me for it. The issue is that the profession protects itself making making lawyers more necessary than they otherwise should be.

  9. Avatar Just a guy...not important says:

    I wasn’t going to post here because frankly I don’t think you are interested in my thoughts. I apologize if I stumbled on to this post and all you wanted to do was pat yourselves on the back. There is no reason to take my words seriously. There is no reason to look within….

    Yet, I will say, it’s a little disheartening to read this and understand the mindset of an attorney.

    First, let’s be clear about something. Just because you hire an attorney, it doesn’t allow you to sleep easier. To say “your problem is now my problem”, doesn’t come close to understanding the issue from the clients perspective. At no time does the problem become your problem. How out of the realm of reality can you be? If the defendant loses, his issue hasn’t become your problem. You won’t be paying…. You won’t be spending a minute in jail. You just lose and have a large attorney bill, as well… It’s just wrong to say you take the burden because you don’t. If you lose will you pay the judgement or serve the time? In fact, I would say the majority of attorneys don’t even empathize with their clients issues. They go from client to client focused on the win. I’m not saying some might lose sleep thinking up strategy or even get a parking ticket to make court on time. Do you want an award for that?

    The story regarding an attorney abandoning his Ferrari to make a hearing is telling… I’ll tell you, I own a Ferrari. So, I’m not enamored by cars and could care less what someone drives. Yet, I’ve got to ask why would you drive a car like that to a hearing? I wouldn’t consider taking an exotic car on a day I had to attend a hearing. It really doesn’t show respect to your client of what your priorities are. The fact that he abandoned it to make a commitment is logical and understandable. It seems like you think an award is warranted here as well….

    But, those issues are just justification for high rates and do little to explain anything. I could discuss them further but I’d run out of room and what’s the point?

    The real issue is lack of accountability and cross interests. The client’s interest is in getting a win at the least cost. The attorney, working on the client’s behalf, interests are in winning and making the most money. So from the start there are cross issues. If you don’t see this you are kidding yourselves. You can call opposing council to discuss a matter and there is little motivation to keep it short and simple. There is little the parties can do to cost contain and the attorneys can feel good about their attention to detail representing their client.

    I’ll leave it at this.

    It isn’t the hourly rate that’s the issue, it’s the abuse/containment of hours, justified or not, that make litigation so expensive.

    Another issue that you could discuss in another story is how firms handle profits. I’m not talking small firms with a few partners. I’m talking about the firms that have many partners and retirees. Do they still profit from the firm? I mean, when you take an attorneys $500 hourly rate, where does it go, percentage wise?

    Just for the record, I’m not anti-attorney. Nor do I put all attorneys in the same category. Yet, you really should self reflect better if you think your profession doesn’t need a change.

    Maybe something to think about….

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      you really should self reflect better if you think your profession doesn’t need a change

      I absolutely 100% think our profession needs some change. But when we’re talking about change, we should be honest about the other things we are talking about. One of those other things is changing the fundamental nature of the attorney-client relationship. There’s just no other way to solve the massive access to justice problem and get legal services to everyone who needs them but can’t afford current prices.

      There is certainly some overbilling and waste, but eliminating that alone isn’t going to get us to real savings. I don’t think there’s nearly as much as you think, even at the big-firm level.

      • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

        I’m always amazed that every single case that comes in the door can be “relatively easy and cheap”. So where are the “relatively hard and expensive” cases?

    • Avatar Ron Mexico says:

      If you present the way you write, then any attorney you meet with sees you coming a mile away. And what they see coming is “difficult pain in the ass client”. No retainer will ever be cheap enough, no result will ever be favorable enough.

      When deciding whether or not to take a case, I can and do evaluate the client personally. If the case interests me but I get the impression that the client will be a hassle, then I can and will build a “difficult client tax” into my fee. Sometimes, sadly, the potential client still says “yes”.

      Just from what I read of your comments above, that tax would apply to you. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to cross your path who thinks that way.

      • Avatar flashwins says:

        “difficult client tax” …. do them a favor and refer them to another attorney.

        • Avatar DD says:

          You simply don’t understand what that means. You have never been an attorney and had many client’s lives in your hands…only to have one or two clients sucking up MASSIVE amounts of time essentially complaining and whining and wasting VALUABLE time that NEEDS to be spent saving someone from prison… etc. You have no idea what we mean by that term, and how impossible difficult clients make properly serving ALL of our clients. You have NO IDEA the stress of being an attorney. And the enormous obligation. Non-attorneys just don’t get it. I never did…until I became an attorney in my 40’s. Trust me, you have NO IDEA.

          • Avatar flashwins says:

            You just wrote an entire paragraph exalting and mystifying the legal profession. Get over yourself and treat your clients with the dignity and respect they deserve. They are paying you.

            • Avatar Machiara says:

              Yes, they are paying me to do my job. But you generally wouldn’t stand over your mechanic and critique his every move, or your plumber, or [insert skilled worker here]. You are hiring me for my expertise, and that’s what you are entitled to. And you’ll get it! And you deserve to be kept up to speed on what is happening in your case, what our tactics are, and to have that explained to you. And you are generally my best source of information about the case and the parties involved, so we’ll be talking extensively about that.

              But I have had more than one client with zero legal training whatsoever who has wanted far more than that. Many of them think they are legal experts when they are anything but. These are the “difficult clients” he’s talking about. They second-guess you and want you to do things that THEY think are a good idea but which YOU know would never fly in whatever court their action happens to be in.

              Gently convincing these clients that their ideas wouldn’t work takes a lot of time. Then you have the clients who nitpick the bills. I try and break mine down into easily-understandable chunks so the client knows exactly what he’s getting. But if we’re dealing with, say, a hefty summary-judgment motion complete with experts, reams of documents, and plentiful deposition testimony, you shouldn’t be surprised if the total time spent on the motion exceeds 50 hours. It just takes that long to do a good job and present our best legal arguments to the court in a forceful, cogent manner.

              And if we have an important deposition coming up, it might take a few hours to prepare for it. It depends on the witness, but depositions are some of the most important things we do, and we only get one shot at it. You don’t want a shoddy deposition–you want your lawyer prepared. Some clients understand and appreciate this. Other clients need to have this explained to them, and even then act like you’re somehow picking their pocket.

              I’ve taken up too much time with this already, so I’ll just leave it here. But there are definitely difficult clients. Eventually most of them come to trust me. Those are the clients I love.

              • Avatar flashwins says:

                You charge your clients $15,000 to work on a motion? (300/hr x 50). Does this sound reasonable to you? One thing is certain, any client you chose not to work with, you are doing a tremendous favor.

                • Avatar Machiara says:

                  Not EVERY motion, flashwins. But we’re talking about “a hefty summary-judgment motion complete with experts, reams of documents, and plentiful deposition testimony.” Remember, this is a motion that can win you the entire case!

                  Such a motion includes:

                  Legal Research on the various legal issues raised in the motion, which oftentimes requires a visit to the local law library. It also requires the review of dozens if not scores of cases, and the Shepardizing of each of those cases to determine how the courts have subsequently treated the holding on which you’re planning to rely.

                  A well-edited and organized 15-20 page memorandum of points and authorities.

                  Various expert declarations, which require not only a scrutinizing of the expert reports but talking with the experts themselves and back-and-forth with them until you have something they’re comfortable signing that also fits well into your argument.

                  Review of discovery documents for information supporting your summary-judgment arguments.

                  Review of hundreds of pages of deposition testimony for information supporting the summary judgment arguments.

                  A separate statement of undisputed facts pin citing the court directly to the portion of the reference where support for those facts can be found, with facts specific to each cause of action split up into separate headings.

                  A declaration attaching a boatload of documents for the court’s review.

                  So yes, in that case, 50 hours no problem. Of course, I’d talk with my client about it before I went ahead and put that kind of time into a motion. A lot of it depends on the demand. If there’s a demand of $50,000, then you’re generally not going to want to spend much at all on the litigation if you don’t have to, so a motion which takes that kind of time just doesn’t make sense.

                  But if there’s a demand, say, for $500k or higher? And you can spend $15,000 for a motion that might have a 40%+ chance of getting rid of the claim entirely? Seems like money well spent to me. YMMV, of course.

                  • Avatar flashwins says:

                    $15,000.00 motions. OK champ. I’m sure your local bar association will be rapping on your door with nonsense like that.

                    • Avatar Machiara says:

                      Did you even read my post, Flash? If you can do all that–and turn out a high-quality product–in less than 50 hours, you should go to law school and undercut the competition. But until you do my clients pay the bills for my motions without complaint because they can see the work that’s gone into them. And like I said, if the motion gets your client out of a case that has a $5 million demand, or cuts the demand in half during settlement negotiations, it’s money well spent.

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      Okay we are making alot of assumptions here. First you are assuming I did not go to law school to do exactly that (what you may call undercutting the competition, I call encouraging excellent service, fair pricing and access to justice). Also, assuming you are drafting all of of your own memorandums of points and authorities, and not having your paralegal (who you are paying 15hr) do it for you. Assuming I have not drafted enough of them to know what it entails and who actually does the majority of the work on them. And you are assuming the case is worth millions of dollars. And you are assuming a 40% getting rid of the case completely, and that those odds can be substantiated. Look…. I’m not arguing that every client should be standing over your shoulder acting like a lawyer. I am simply arguing that clients deserve transparency in pricing and billing, and respect from the attorneys they pay to represent them. Is that really too much to ask? I don’t think it is.

                    • Avatar Machiara says:

                      And if you had just said that, I would have agreed with you. But what you said was that spending 50 hours on a motion was per se unreasonable and possibly an ethical violation. My point was that in certain situations–and here is where the “assumptions” come in–it is not only reasonable and ethical, but necessary. Not every situation, of course. But certain cases will call for that kind of investment.

                      But you’re kind of burying the lede here. You have paralegals write your motions?!?!? I’ve never had a paralegal do any drafting of or research on any motion I’ve ever submitted to the court.

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      Nope. I was drafting them for the law firm I was working for in law school. The law firm I was working at is fairly high profile has a case they litigated published in most Con Law books so let’s not feign indignation. Google: paralegals drafting points and authorities and you will see it is as common as wearing church clothes on a Sunday. I am really pleased and encouraged to see you agree with transparent billing and respecting clients though. Kudos to you sir.

                    • Avatar Machiara says:

                      Well, that’s interesting; I’d actually never heard of that before. Law clerks I can understand, since they’re in the midst of their legal training and need to have some (highly-supervised) experience in what a lawyer does. But I’ve never even considered having a paralegal write a brief, and honestly I’m still not much taken by the idea. YMMV, of course.

                    • Avatar Joy says:

                      You need to calm down!
                      When someone’s risking years in prison I doubt $15,000 will cause suicide.

                      I think you’re irrational and really aggressive. You also shouldn’t argue with a lawyer.

                    • Avatar flashwins says:

                      Is suicide the marker we are using to determine if rates are excessive? I think you need to calm down. Why shouldn’t I argue with a lawyer? He’s a legal professional, not the pope. No more liquid lunches for you.

                    • Avatar Christopher M. says:

                      Flashwins, if you think that it too expensive for a private practice attorney to charge on a high value summary judgment motion, then you’re free to offer cheaper services or work in a legal aid society. Your subjective valuation of the work product of another attorney is irrelevant to whether they’re justified in charging it. Furthermore, if the client fails to read their engagement agreement’s billing section, that is the client’s fault. If legal filings were the sort of thing that could be universally done cheaply, including summary judgment motions, then potential clients can elect to do so on their own without hiring legal counsel.

              • Avatar ?? says:

                It’s like anything else, I suppose. A client needs to educate himself on all the work that goes into drafting motions and such. If my attorney charged me a couple thousand dollars for some complex summary judgement motion, yeah, I might not be surprised because I understand the work that goes into something like that. If my attorney charged me several thousand dollars for a motion to continue or a fill-in-the-blanks discovery motion, no… that’s not OK. I wouldn’t be happy. And also, like anything else, you can choose to forego the cost entirely by rolling up your sleeves, hitting the books and doing it yourself. Actually, if more people did that, they would probably understand just how difficult “lawyering” is. I’ve done it myself, and it was tough — doable, but very, very tough (and time-consuming) . I also tried to work on my own car before, albeit with less favorable results lol

          • Avatar Bobby Ballew says:

            You should attach a link to your office contact information. I think your commitment to clients is written above.

      • Avatar Suzanne says:

        I think your comments sum you up perfectly. This is exactly why your profession is partly loathed and treated with contempt. You are educated people supposedly and above emotion and snap judgements, if you are not, then with the fees you charge at least you should be. I imagine you annoy most people who come into contact with you. Heaven forbid you have someone as a client who questions what you and your ilk do in your shady profession. Making deals behind clients backs, and then getting upset when they don’t take them, as the only winner would be you lot of mean spirited oiks. There is no empathy, because you don’t gauge people’s character, what is trivial to you is life and death to them, and you need to remember that.

      • Avatar Evernessince says:

        This is exactly the attitude that is problematic. Any other service based employee treats you better.

    • Avatar dskattorney says:

      What about when a client decides that they “cannot” pay their bill and, as such, force the attorney to file for either fee arbitration or breach of contract? Even if the attorney wins, they can still lose when the client inevitably decides to get a “fresh start” by declaring bankruptcy. Additionally, many attorneys are forced to continue on cases for non-paying clients because the Judge has the final say-so when it comes to “permissive withdrawal” (a lawyer may only ‘fire’ a client, without Court approval, in certain limited circumstances). Let’s not forget either the reflexive action of filing a malpractice counterclaim as soon as an attorney sues a client for fees. All of these costs of doing business are just that, business (if a Fortune 500 company gets hit with a large jury award, the cost is passed onto the consumer) – that is just the way business is. Attorney hourly rates increase just as in any business, to cover the costs of dealing with the 10% of clients that are horrific.

      • Avatar Evernessince says:

        Yeah, because everyone is going to file bankruptcy and take a massive credit hit. You are describing less than 1% of clients. If it were so simple to get out of debt everyone would be doing it.

      • Avatar Ash says:

        Fee arbitration is a joke, especially when a client files it against the attorney. I filed for an arbitration for my reasons as well as an accounting error (which was pretty obvious.) I sat with three attorneys to make my case. The attorney, who filed the arbitration against, did not even show up. I lost the arbitration. They did not even give back the money due to accounting error.

    • Avatar Alaina Sullivan says:

      I struggle when my clients just stop paying simply because they do not get the outcome they want. I cannot even begin to tell you the nights I have gone over and over what I could have done differently, the times I have been crushed after receiving an unfair guardian ad litem report that causes my client to lose custody of their child. I’m sure my husband, who has seen me torn over the possibility of losing a case and worrying about the effect it will have on my client and her children. I carry it in my heart. Many of us do, in fact, take on these problems. We put our whole heart into it and certainly do not just walk away once the case is closed. However, I still have the pay my bills and take care of my family. I have a solo practice and my fees earned ARE my income. So I have to collect the fees even if I have to watch my client fall apart because of an unfair court ruling. I don’t have a choice, and I certainly don’t just walk away without a second thought.

    • Avatar Anonymous says:

      All of what you said is precisely why even Jesus didn’t like the lawyers of his time.

      Granted, there are both good & bad attorneys out there. But i don’t know how can some of them sleep at night knowing the client they represented really did commit a crime or that they incarcerated an innocent man

      • Avatar Sam Glover says:

        This has been thoroughly answered many times, but it boils down to the idea that justice means punishing the right people for the right reasons. For the right reasons is basically what we mean by due process, and that’s what criminal defense lawyers are protecting when they defend someone regardless whether they actually committed a crime.

        But also, you seem to think that’s a common situation. In reality, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers don’t have a special window into the truth. They aren’t much more likely to know someone is innocent or guilty than anyone else. Which is partly why the idea that we can punish the right people whether or not it’s for the right reasons just doesn’t get you very far.

  10. Avatar Shannon says:

    This article is great. I would like to add that the cost also has to do with who we can not represent after signing a client. When an attorney is in one specialty, signing one client often means not doing work for another company.

  11. Avatar bill holston says:

    excellent article! A couple points: 1. Lawyers do more pro bono work than any other profession, by a large margin, and individual lawyers are consequently taking on the cost of providing no cost services.
    Second, I completely agree about your points, but I do think that the cost of litigation has become prohibitive. I used to try jury trials in the 80’s for a few thousand dollars, now that doesn’t really happen and I think technology has been a huge reason for the increase.

    • Avatar J Miller says:

      Isn’t it more the trend towards more liberal and thorough discovery and “rules creep?” I’m a younger lawyer so I’ve never known anything else. But a huge chunk of fees in my jurisdiction is discovery objections and related motions.

      Frankly, I’d like to see discovery rules have more “un-objectionable” rules like Texas’ Request for Disclosure where the lawyer just gets to demand those items, no objections allowed.

  12. Avatar James says:

    Leave it to people on the internet to make a mountain of hate out of a molehill of a simple issue, simply stated. Fees, charges, time: it’s all a very complex mix that attorneys have to figure out every hour of every day. One thing I know for sure, when I was in private practice, I spent at least the same amount of non-chargeable time as chargeable time on many matters – but the clock didn’t stop – which reduced my ability to earn a living proportionately. Then there were the pro bono matters, and the friends that “just had a quick question” and my family members (all of whom believed they had a right to free legal services) and people that paid me for one thing that led them to believe they were entitled to unlimited refills (haha). So while the author didn’t mention any of those items he could and should have. The lesson for young lawyers is simple – don’t UNDERPRICE your services, because you are just going to resent/regret it later. I exited private practice and now am happily employed as a Chief Legal Officer for an international financial services firm, and am very happy with my decision! Nice article. Many lawyers have huge hearts, much to their own financial detriment! Just like in every other profession on Earth, there are good and bad apples.

  13. Avatar John Gordon says:

    There is no way to justify a 5000$ legal fee for 3 court appearance’s which is typical of most clients 3 appearances whether custody or divorce or criminal and your paying a paralegal to file the majority of your motions. So can someone please disect the reason for this high absord fees. As soon as 10yrs ago a custody case was typically 1500-2500 dollars a misdemeanor was 500$ a low level felony 1000-1500$ Now its 1500 per misdemeanor which entails basically 1 court appearance for you the attorney and maybe 1 phone call to the prosecutor. A felony is now between 2500.00- 10,000.00 and that entails 2court appearances by the attorney one at preliminary and another at trial. A couple phone calls to the prosecution. It’s just hard to comprehend. Even the best lawyer can only do so much and either the client is in the right or the wrong.

    • Avatar Jonathan Warner says:

      I almost laughed out loud reading your screed. You are demanding a justification for the validity of a $5,000.00 attorney fee in consideration for legal representation in a matter as complicated as a child custody case? Given that most New York attorneys won’t even take on a child custody case for less than $5,000.00 up-front (not including their hourly rate), and assuming the other person in your picture is the child in question, I’d say your attorney’s fee can safely be considered the opposite of “absurd”.
      Further, I take offense to your labeling the legal profession a “den of thieves”. Thanks to your attorney, you’re now guaranteed the opportunity to direct the upbringing of your child. If you amortized the benefit of raising your child over the next ten [10] years, it would work out to $500.00 per year – or a little more than $40.00 per month. Is the benefit of raising your kid worth $40.00 per month to you? I’ll bet you pay more for high-speed internet service.
      You should be worshiping the ground that your attorney walks on.

    • Avatar J Miller says:

      Mr. Gordon:

      Most criminal cases are high-dollar flat fee and are billed the same whether there was a trial or not. This is because a judge is NOT going to let a lawyer “out” of the case unless there is a replacement lawyer. So the lawyer is stuck, whether or not the lawyer earned a favorable plea deal (that the client then refuses).

      $5000 for a 3-hearing family law case is quite common especially if each hearing is contested and not a prove-up. You may only see the one hour at court, but you didn’t see the 5 hours the paralegal did and the 3-8 hours the lawyer did to prepare for the hearing, (times 3 hearings), plus discovery motions and responses between the hearings, plus the myriad of phone calls and e-mails from the client complaining about the spouse or ex or whomever, (some complaints are legitimate and help the case, but most complaints just run up billable time and don’t change the outcome). It all adds up and the lawyer has little to no control over ‘what’ adds up. Are you aware that some divorces with kids will run into $100,000+ *per side* in attorney’s fees?

      In my jurisdiction, the first hearing in a family case is the most important; so, you prepare for it as if it was the final trial in many circumstances.

      Lawyerist’s argument is precisely this: the obligation to the client is high, therefore the fee is high.

    • Avatar Madrone says:

      John Gordon: I am a criminal defense attorney. Your perspective on the work we do is laughable. First, your costs are wrong (at least locally to where I practice). Market rate for a competent private defense attorney can be $2500-$5500 for misdemeanors; and $6500 to way above $10,000 for felonies.

      But the funniest part is the made-up amount of work you believe is entailed. Out of 100 cases, I might get one or two that resolve with one phone call and a court appearance. Most misdemeanors I handle take 6-12 months, multiple court appearances, and many hours of investigation and negotiation. I have felony cases that take two years to resolve. And I am absolutely one of those attorneys described above who loses sleep over cases.

      So, take a $10,000 felony where the person faces years of imprisonment. Obviously the stakes are high. Then stretch that fee over 18-24 months and a hundred hours of work (not at all unrealistic for a complex felony). Now you’re talking about attorney fees of $100/hour. Compared to the hourly rates of most other attorneys, this is bargain-basement. And if the result is a trial win, or a reduction to a misdemeanor? That is money well-spent. Given that the hourly rate for criminal cases actually ends up being quite low, most private criminal defense attorneys make their money by working at higher volume than other attorneys.

      Frankly, I have had plenty of clients just like you. You come in to our first consultation, tell me what my job entails, and complain about how much it’s going to cost. (And the whole thing is someone else’s fault too.) Guess what? You’ve just earned yourself a higher fee quote, because I know that I’m going to have to put up with this for the next year or more. And I know that regardless of how good the outcome is, you’re going to complain about something.

      Now that you know how your bad attitude can cost you, you have two choices: Improve your attitude when dealing with people who are trying to help you. Or keep the bad attitude and keep complaining. I can take a guess which option you’ll choose, but that’s up to you.

      • Avatar Irfan Khawaja says:

        I find it remarkable that you’re willing to admit out loud that you engage in price discrimination on the basis of snap judgments during an initial consultation. No doctor, lawyer, mechanic, plumber, or therapist could do the same thing and get away with it. So while the lawyers sit around writing learned articles about how price discrimination law applies to everyone but themselves, they themselves engage in it without apology. Good to know.


        • Avatar Madrone says:

          You link to a law review article on price fixing. That article describes price fixing this way: “When economists use the term, they mean that two or more similar goods are being sold at prices that bear different ratios to their marginal costs.” In other words, when the same item is sold at different prices, this could constitute price fixing.

          What I am talking about is quoting a higher flat rate for service to a client who will require a greater amount of work. (Note that we are talking about a service here, not a commodity.) This is not a snap judgment, nor is it price fixing. This is a product of years of experience with hundreds of clients. Experience dictates that some clients come in with unrealistic expectations and a chip on their shoulder. These clients take substantially more work than others. Therefore, they earn a higher fee quote.

          • Avatar Irfan Khawaja says:

            Many people in many fields could say the same thing as you’ve just said. The examples I gave were examples of services, not commodities. And yet doing what you do in those professions would be considered price discrimination. So: Would you be willing to endorse the principle that every other service provider should be allowed to make snap determinations about what fee quotes they can give, based on their personal, subjective judgments about clients’ unrealistic expectations? That would be consistent.

            Experience, by the way, dictates a lot of things. One thing it dictates is that when people set their own prices and can increase their fees without transparency, when no one is looking, their supposedly centuries-old experience can be totally ad hoc and arbitrary. It’s called being a judge in your own case, and thousands of years of experience tells us that people are very bad at it.

          • Avatar Irfan Khawaja says:

            Just to be absolutely clear and specific: would you be in favor of a physician’s or a therapist’s right–with no legal oversight whatsoever–to bill patients and/or insurance companies added fees, over and above the customary fee, for “patient with unrealistic expectations”? Better yet, let’s make these added fees undisclosed, so that the physician or therapist just adds extra fees to the baseline fee on an ad hoc basis, as she determines, “experientially,” that the patient has expressed yet another “unrealistic expectation.” The same for plumbers and mechanics, and all the rest. Can colleges and universities start increasing the tuitions–in the form of “fees”–of students with “unrealistic expectations”?

            For that matter, isn’t it “unrealistic” for someone with a prior medical condition to expect the same coverage as someone without any? Coverage for the one is certainly a “dissimilar good” from coverage for the other. So why not up the price so as to make coverage prohibitively expensive for those with prior conditions? Strangely, it’s precisely the lawyers who don’t seem to want to let that happen.

            Apparently, there are hitherto unheard-of bonanzas to be made in a wide variety of fields: all one has to do is to bill for “unrealistic attitudes,” which are in abundant supply across the land. If things were that easy, we’d all be rich. But my point is that we’re not–because it’s not. Unless you’re a lawyer.

            • Avatar Madrone says:

              I am not familiar with how therapists bill, but I think we all know the billing practices in the medical field. If you want to find out how much one single procedure will cost? Good luck. I’m not sure that comparing the billing practices of doctors to the billing practices of lawyers is that beneficial to your argument. One single doctor can have many multiple price points for their services, depending on which insurance company they are negotiating with, whether the patient is uninsured, on Medicaid, etc.

              The issue here has to do specifically with the billing practices of criminal defense attorneys. Most of us do not bill hourly because to do so would be inconvenient (if not impossible) and would leave the clients with no idea what their final cost will be. It is appealing for all sides in this type of representation to have a set price up front. That set price will depend on the going rate in the local market. (Some attorneys will work at below-market rate & higher volume, some will have higher rates & more limited clientele.) In this specific billing arrangement, the attorney has to be able to determine if a given case is likely to require more work than the norm. This could be because of the facts of the case, the client’s criminal history, or (gasp) the client’s attitude toward their representation.

              If a potential client feels that a flat-rate quote is too high, it is relatively easy for them to shop around. None of this is a shocking or lawyer-specific as you make it out to be.

      • Avatar Irfan Khawaja says:

        Sorry, obviously “lawyer” was a typo in my second sentence.

    • Avatar finnitastic says:

      I would definitely charge you more based on your poor attitude. You just don’t seem like someone who would be pleasant to deal with and more stress for me = more money. I might also charge you more for wearing a bracelet to our consultation. That just screams d-bag.

  14. Avatar John Gordon says:

    Very well said “just a guy”

  15. Avatar Daniel Lane says:

    Hah, about dreaming about the work. I’m not a lawyer but I absolutely know the feeling. I’m a programmer and believe me, dreaming in code is a very weird experience.

    Anyway on the issue of affordability, if a case costs a significant portion of a persons yearly income – it’s expensive. You need to understand that it’s hard for people who aren’t lawyers to appreciate the value of the profession. On the flip side most clients will use their own income as a baseline. If a court case costs £15,000 and the client earns £20,000 per year and the case will last a month you’re asking a client for 3/4 of their yearly salary for a month of work.

    It’s all about baseline perspective.

    • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

      But they don’t blink when their HVAC, plumber, electrician, roofer, or mechanic bills that. How much do you think your employer is charging out for your time? If the business is still open, then it’s at least double what they’re paying you per hour worked.

      • Avatar James Jensen says:

        There’s a big difference with these though. I can have an electrician rough-fit and finish wire an average 4-bedroom house for $5-6,000 at a fixed cost. You know what you’re getting into, and you have the benefit with other workmen of being able to observe (and time) them working. They can’t hide how many hours they’ve worked from you, or make up stuff well after they performed the work. The attorney has much more leeway to bill as he sees fit, and much of it can’t be accounted for in the way that it can with a physical worker.

        I can understand that an employer needs to make money and if he’s charging me $50 and hour for a workman, that he’s probably paying him $25. How do you explain a solo practitioner, that has no paralegal or secretary (i.e. he is a one-man operation) charging $300 just like larger firms with legitimate overhead do? It’s simple. He’s charging it because he can get away with it and preying on his clients.

        • Avatar Patent Attorney says:

          1. Find an attorney that’ll give you an estimate. Problem solved. Your personal trust issues? Those are your issues, not your attorney’s problem.

          2. The solo’s overhead isn’t legitimate? I don’t believe that you run a business now. I’m in a big firm. That means that my office space costs a few hundred a month because it’s a corner of a much larger office negotiated at bulk rates. My westlaw access is pennies because we have so many accounts. My health insurance is group rate. Solo’s get no discounts, and share with no one the price of the office bathroom footage, the kitchen footage, the foyer, etc. On a per hour basis, their fixed costs are much, much higher than in a big firm. The difference is, we’re paying for capacity with our staff instead of paying large fixed costs. You sure you run a business?

          • Avatar James Jensen says:

            Yes, I do. I also happen to own the property the business sits on. I’m well aware of overhead costs, because unlike the solo I have employees as well. I never said their overhead wasn’t legitimate, but there is no one else on the payroll. So the solo is the only one that pays rent/insurance/utilities? Your point is…?

            Let me put it this way, in my line of work I can charge either fixed-cost or hourly depending on what the client wants. For a senior guy, I bill up to 75. For a junior one, $30. There is a big spread of expertise, and I don’t charge the same amount for even a senior guy if he’s working on a project that’s not in his expertise. The solo charges $300 per hour no matter if he’s researching, drafting, answer emails or phone calls, making copies, or driving to court. There is no unbundling of the cost of these services. To compare it to the medical profession, a routine office visit is valued (and billed) at the same rate as surgery.

            If he has to get up to use the restroom during our meeting, then I am paying $300/time in bathroom for the privilege. In my line of work, for hourly billing my guys have to clock in with a desktop application and if there is no keyboard/mouse input for 5 minutes, the clock stops.

            If I send someone from the office out to buy lunch for a client (or prospective client) I don’t bill them for his/her time. I’ve never had an attorney offer to pay for a meal, or offer anything other than water or coffee, ever!

  16. Avatar Jon K says:

    This author comes across like he has never heard of the stresses and obligations of virtually any job. Even people working in retail stores, as janitors, or at mcdonalds stress about work, lose sleep, and feel a certain level of commitment to do a good job and take on the burden of a client (or anyone using their service or work). Sure, some of them do a bad job, but some lawyers do a bad job too.

    To any non-lawyer reading this article, the author would come off as completely patronizing. He is essentially justifying lawyer costs only by saying what a lawyer does (take on legal problems). That doesn’t justify the cost, it just explains where the cost goes. Nothing in this article in any way correlates the price of a lawyer to the quality or value of the service. It reduces a hugely complex issue to “lawyer work is hard and stressful, so don’t blame lawyers for wanting lots of money”. This is an antiquated notion and only further explains why the public despise lawyers.

    Mr Glover, who are you to say the stress from your job is worth 500 an hour, but the stress faced by a nurse is worth less? Or the stress faced by a caretaker? Or by any other worker? I’m sorry to say, but nearly every other industry justifies their costs based on the value of the product or service. Yes, you have lots of professional obligations that go beyond other professions’ obligations but those obligations do not single-handedly justify the cost of legal services. Clients aren’t asking you to stay up at night thinking about them, just to do your job. Your stresses are similar to those faced by any working individual and you do not deserve extra compensation for them. If you want to correlate price to level of obligation all you are saying is that getting a good, dedicated lawyer can only ever be for the rich.

    • Avatar Brick says:

      Your post just simply points out the fact that you do not understand the work of a lawyer.

    • Avatar finnitastic says:

      You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • Avatar justthebest says:

      You think your doctor, plumber, or accountant is losing sleep over your life? It’s not the LAWYER’S life/job he is dreaming about (as in your other examples)–it’s YOUR life he’s dreaming about and worrying about at dinner with his wife. I have trouble sleeping because I am worried my client will lose custody of his son if I don’t turn over every leaf and find the ream of facts I need to win that case for him. The author’s point is that this is different from another job because you ARE asking us to think about your case all the time. You don’t know it, but that’s part of being a lawyer–we are always thinking about what needs to be done to help our client get what they want. It is not possible to leave it at the office, because there is too much at stake and the more we think about it, the more ideas we have for how to “win” the case. (I practice family law, so I don’t usually think of “winning”–there are no “winners”.) You don’t know it, but you need us to be thinking about your case all the time, and WE know that.

  17. Avatar Davis says:

    “To reduce the cost of legal services past a certain point, you probably have to reduce the lawyer’s obligation to the client.”

    This is probably the best point of the article, and one of the truer ones as it establishes a minimum amount of compensation we pay to get the obligation.

    Now the other aspects of the article such as “absorbing a parking ticket” or other business expenses. We all know that that lawyer passed that cost to the client.

  18. Avatar Arsalan Shirazi says:

    As a Lawyer, I find this article to be incredibly self serving and un-critical. Are there factors relating to professional obligations that make hiring a lawyer expensive, sure.

    But to completely gloss over some of the most critical issues like the challenges of hourly billing rates vs. project fees in an adapting economy, or the legacy costs of traditional legal practices and firms which may simply not make sense today for certain clients…while making a pitch for high prices, is just irresponsible.

    Using anecdotal stories over statistics to make a point like this is lazy writing. So some lawyer left his ferrari in a rainstorm therefore I shouldn’t make a more concerted effort to explain to my clients exactly why they are paying what they are paying?

    You make your clients problems your own? You think about work while you are with your family? You stress out about your responsibilities…Gimme a break! What makes that so different from an accountant responsible for someone’s tax obligations? Or a start-up who has taken a considerable investment from a VC? Or a nurse who takes care of babies on life-support?

    At the end of the day, even considering fiduciary duties, Lawyers are providing a service, like many other businesses. And most rules of professional conduct only hold lawyers liable, financially or otherwise, if their conduct was negligent…so as nice as it is to stay up at night thinking about your clients problems, most lawyers have a level of protection that many other service providers don’t have if a client is unhappy with the end results.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      As a Lawyer

      I’m not questioning this. Only a lawyer would capitalize a word like lawyer for no reason at all.

    • Avatar captain_quirk says:

      –“And most rules of professional conduct only hold lawyers liable, financially or otherwise, if their conduct was negligent…”

      Absolutely not true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about lawyers having their license suspended for months — even years — just because of some hypertechnical violation of some arcane rule that harmed no one and didn’t even put anyone at any risk. It may not even be the lawyer’s fault, but he still gets his license — his ability to make a living — suspended.

      Few other occupations have such built-in difficulties, risks, and stressors.

  19. Avatar Concerned in Cleveland says:

    I have known the benefit and piece of mind of consulting with an attorney. However, I believe I have experienced the same value in dealing with those in the medical profession. Those in the medical profession also have “the considerable cost of acquiring a [medical] degree, malpractice insurance, business overhead, etc.” I would say that they too make untold sacrifices for their patients, do loads of pro bono work, and carry the burdens of their day home with them. Yet, we as a society accept payment caps and intense payment regulations for doctors. Why? The reason we accept these is because we believe access to their services is important.

    If you get what you pay for (as the article suggests), we would get better medical care by increasing the cost that our doctors charge. However, as a society we have seen fit to heavily regulate the medical industry, and as a result we have a shortage of doctors in our country. believe that access to the law is as valuable as access to good medical care. So, I would say if the article’s line of reasoning holds true we either need to impose intense payment regulations on the legal community or we need to remove them from the medical community. These two industries are not all that dissimilar.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      First, you are mixing up the cost to the client/patient with the compensation to the lawyer/doctor.

      While it is expensive to hire a lawyer, about half of lawyers make $40–65,000 before taxes. Those lawyers are certainly expensive from the client’s perspective, but they aren’t making much money.

      Second, all I wrote about was why lawyers are expensive (some of the reasons, anyway). I don’t think I wrote that making lawyers more expensive would result in better legal services. There is a range of what legal services cost, and that range is expensive by most people’s standards.

      If you impose “intense payment regulations on the legal community” that regulate lawyers’ compensation too far below that range, watch as the lawyers disappear. (Then again, if your idea is regulating lawyers so we are compensated like doctors, sign me up!)

      Finally, there is no legal insurance industry the way there is for healthcare. I’m not sure you can really compare the two in the first place.

    • Avatar finnitastic says:

      In what reality to lawyers make as much as doctors? Sure, at the top of the food chain big firm partners make tons of money, just as plastic surgeons and highly-specialized doctors do, but among the rank and file there are tons of attorneys making less than $50K/year and I doubt you can say the same about doctors.

  20. Avatar Irfan Khawaja says:

    Everything you’ve attributed to lawyers is also attributable, with appropriate changes, to psychotherapists. They acquire advanced degrees, they need malpractice insurance, they have office overhead, they solve people’s problems, and they take those problems home. Like lawyers, their obligations are bundled into the therapist-client relationship by professional rules of ethics. They get calls at home at odd hours, and they have to be “on” both in the therapy office and during a client’s crisis in the so-called off-hours. How many lawyers have to deal with clients who threaten suicide? How many are expected to talk the client off the ledge? For that matter, think about court-ordered counseling, the means by which therapists are supposed to solve the problems that lawyers don’t even pretend to know how to solve.


    As for salaries: For therapists: mean annual wage of $73K. High end: $110K.


    Lawyers? Median salary at $113K. High end: over 188K.


    Comparison of lawyers to Uber is an obvious non-starter. Comparison of lawyers to therapists is not. What explains the discrepancy in income?

    One hypothesis: price inelasticity of demand for legal services in a climate where lawyers make the rules and then claim to protect you from the rules that other lawyers have made. Since we’re all ruled by lawyers (they populate the legislatures and the executives of our government), they legalize life by insisting on the need to generate legal rules to regulate everything under the sun. Having legalized life, they then hire themselves out as the answer to the over-complexity they’ve introduced. And then they expect gratitude for their services. In other words, we’re supposed to be grateful to a cartel for acting like a cartel. Therapists lack comparable access to political power (especially therapists who are not MDs, i.e., not prescribing psychiatrists). A consideration to ponder: relative access to political power, not relative value of the services, explains the discrepancies in income between the two professions.

    Here’s a simple definition of price inelasticity of demand:


    It’s a definition, of course, not a justification.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      Those US News numbers on lawyers’ salaries are LOLtastic. Try these: http://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib

      About half of lawyers are making $40–65,000 before taxes.

      • Avatar Irfan Khawaja says:

        Maybe you’re laughing so hard that you haven’t quite read the page you just cited. Here’s what the note under the 2014 graph says:

        “Note: Graph is based on 21,545 salaries reported for full-time jobs lasting a year or more. A few salaries above $205,000 are excluded from the graph for clarity, but not from the percentage calculations. The left-hand peaks of the graph reflect salaries of $40,000 to $65,000, which collectively accounted for about half of reported salaries. The right-hand peak shows that salaries of $160,000 accounted for about 17% of reported salaries. However, more complete salary coverage for jobs at large law firms heightens this peak and diminishes the left-hand peaks — and shows that the unadjusted mean overstates the average starting salary by just over 5%. Nonetheless, as both the arithmetic mean and the adjusted mean show, relatively few salaries are close to either mean. For purposes of this graph, all reported salaries were rounded to the nearest $5,000.”

        Question 1: The claim is that about half of reported salaries are within the $40-65K range. Is it your claim that half of therapists’ incomes, reported, comparably, are higher? If so, could you come up with the statistics that show that? Because if you can’t, it’s a real mystery what you’re trying to say. All that I’m assuming is that therapist incomes are lower. You haven’t even pretended to dispute that.

        Question 2: The right-hand peak shows that salaries of $160K or above accounted for about 17% of reported salaries. But you didn’t laugh at my therapist income statistics, which reported almost NO salaries at that level. The note goes on to say that the right-hand peak is underreported; if accurately reported, the second average would rise. (True to lawyerly form, you didn’t mention that your statistics involved two different averages. Ah, the adversarial method at work. I guess there’s no equivalent to Brady disclosure on blogs.) But my point is that there is no comparable peak for therapists. So how have you responded to my claim, much less rebutted it?

        Question 3: If your source admits that “relatively few reported salaries are close to either mean,” which one of us should be laughing at whose statistics? (Answer: I should be, if only any of this were funny.)

        Here is the Bureau of Labor Statistics on psychologist income:


        Median: $67.7K.

        Here is BLS on laywers’ income:


        Median: $114.3K.

        By the way, if we really wanted to split hairs, I would make the point that a JD is not comparable to a PhD in clinical psychology. A JD takes three years, a PhD takes four to seven. So we really ought to be isolating the PhD therapists, and then discounting for the lost income of the lost three or four years of income in their cases.

        The bottom line is that unless you have some way of demonstrating that lawyers make less than therapists, your “LOLtastic” point is a blatant evasion that doesn’t even pretend to deal with what I said.

  21. Avatar D.V. says:

    Well in my country we, lawyers , do not get that many money like in the usa, and people still think that they are paying a lot. AND i went to law school, because i want to help people. If you didin’t- it is ok. But saying all lawyers are like you , it is invalid. And yes sometimes i spend a lot of time outside work to think about a case and what i cdan do so my client is happy with the result.

  22. Avatar GadF1y says:

    Why such disingenuousness Author? Given the ubiquity of stories regarding lawyer incompetence and negligence, and some of my own experiences with same, we both know that this article is BS.

  23. Avatar Kyle Smith says:

    I always thought lawyers were so expensive because we were able to artificially restrict entrance into the market.

    • Avatar Madrone says:

      Artificially? Like requiring expensive training and years of experience in order to adequately perform the work? Restricted? Yes. Artificial? No.

      Unless you have a proposal for a way to open the market while also guaranteeing that the new entrants are qualified to provide the service?

      • Avatar Kyle Smith says:

        “Artificial” as in made it produced by humans rather than occurring naturally—naturally through the free market, that is. So, yes, artificial.

        You’re debating whether the artificial barriers to enter the legal profession are a good or bad thing. That wasn’t the point of by comment. My point was that we charge a lot because we can. We can because we’ve made it illegal for most of the population to do our work, regardless of their competence to do so. By restricting the supply of lawyers, we’ve necessarily skyrocketed the price.

        • Avatar Madrone says:

          I suppose that is a matter of belief as to whether the “free market” is a naturally-occurring phenomenon. You appear to believe that it is. I would disagree in that the free market is just as much a human product as the regulations that control it.

          “We charge a lot because we can.” Or, you could say we charge a lot because the stakes of what we do (keeping people out of jail, protecting their livelihoods and property, fighting for custody of their children, etc.) are extraordinarily high. Yes, as a matter of public policy, lay people are not allowed to dabble in circumstances where the stakes are this high. Nor are they allowed to perform brain surgery. The tone of your commentary suggests you believe it should be otherwise.

          • Avatar Kyle Smith says:

            Those might be the reasons why we do charge high prices (or perhaps how we justify it to the client), but they’re not the reason why we can. The stakes of a job, standing alone, are not enough to cause our prices to be as high as they are. Otherwise, we would see paramedics, nurses, members of the military, or police officers getting paid $400/hour. We don’t, even though the stakes in those jobs are arguably higher than many of the things lawyers do.

            I’m not arguing whether it’s a good or bad thing. But we should be honest with ourselves why we can charge high prices: we’ve stacked the deck in our favor. Sure, doing so has increased the training and experience of lawyers generally (although, if you’ve read enough legal writing you know that idea is questionable, at best), but it has also given our group somewhat of a monopoly that allows us to jack up our prices.

            Clients need us. We’ve written laws for ourselves that severely restrict the number of people in our profession. Combine demand with restricted supply and you get high prices. Simple as that.

  24. Avatar Guest says:

    Although this was poorly written article, as a lawyer, I can confirm everything Sam said. I often lose sleep over my clients problems, and my clients take precedence over everything else in my life. It is not that I dislike my wife and kids, it’s just that lawyers deal with things that are really important…to their clients. When my client needs my time while at dinner or putting my kids to bed, they are trying to reach me to discuss something with massive consequences, so you cannot say, “Well, I am having dinner with my wife, can I get back to you later?” It would be unacceptable and should be. The client hired a trusted confidant who is there to shepherd them through an unfamiliar, stressful, and often, adversarial process. This often means the client calls you upset or distraught and you are the first person they take it out on. If you are a good attorney, you bring them back from the brink and help them start to think about the issue rationally, so often you are the only one who gets yelled at, cursed at, etc., and must make peace for your client’s sake. All of this makes the job very stressful, which is why lawyers are among the top professions for divorce, substance abuse, divorce, etc. When you hire a lawyer, you want every ounce of that person in your corner, and that commitment can be expensive.

  25. Avatar christy says:

    I’m sure his poor little Ferrari was insured and he got another one just like it a week later.

  26. Avatar Mike says:

    If you’re justifying your fees by bragging how many hours you clock, it might not be the best strategy. A person hires legal counsel based on experience, expertise and history of outcomes that are similar to one’s own personal issue. THAT justifies the fees. Moreover, an intangible reason people hire one attorney over another is chemistry. For me personally, the fact you’re unable to focus on your kids or wife is an incredible turnoff. I would never want a lawyer who value an engagement over his family and puts more focus into a client than his own children. Additionally, as a client, I’d be extremely concerned about time managements issues.

  27. Avatar Claire says:

    I don’t disagree with the fact that lawyers should make a decent amount of money for what they do. However, as a psychiatric social worker doing mental health counseling, I think there are many more professions that work JUST as hard, lose JUST as much sleep, making FAR less money…. At least lawyers are paid on a scale that is in line with the amount of work they put in.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      Lawyers are expensive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are well paid. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere in these comments, about half of lawyers make just $40–65,000 before taxes. Check out the salary distribution curve.

      • Avatar Jamie Sutton says:

        The fact that you don’t consider 40-65,000 well paid is kind of telling though Sam. It can admittedly be a relative measurement, but that’s around or above the median. As someone who was raised in a household of 5 with an annual combined income of 21,000 a year, hearing fellow law students and recent graduates say they “can’t possibly” live on 40k a year is mind-boggling, and a little insulting.

        I was having a meeting with a local attorney around here about a modest means clinic concept, and she said “You have to understand, for most of us there’s not really any difference between working for 25 dollars an hour and working for nothing”

        Class privilege, of the highest order, and it’s very common among older attorneys. Only someone who has never actually had “nothing” could say something like that

        • Avatar Sam Glover says:

          It’s a fair point that $40–65,000 could be considered a pretty decent income in America. At the same time, it should be neither mind-boggling nor insulting to hear a law-school graduate say they can’t live on $40k now that they have six figures of school-related debt.

          Nobody goes to law school expecting to make $40-65,000. (Or almost nobody, anyway.) In fact, I bet if you surveyed clients—even those who think lawyers are too expensive—to see what they think would be a fair income for a lawyer, the average would come in comfortably above that range.

          • Avatar Jamie Sutton says:

            Fair enough on most points, particularly expectations however, I don’t really feel like six-figures of school related debt should be the excuse it used to be. Perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, sure. But now with the Income Based Repayment Plan, Pay as you Earn plan, and variations, I personally don’t know anyone, even with six-figures of debt, whose student loan payment is unreasonable or burdensome. Now the fiscal responsibility of those plans might be debatable by wiser heads than me, but I know plenty of people with 100k+ in student debt paying no more than 100-200 a month.

            The simple fact is, lawyers have priced themselves out of the market, and the market they have left is ever-shrinking .Every client from the lowest indigent to the top fortune 500 corporation is demanding lower and more efficient legal pricing. Hell, most LAWYERS can’t afford lawyers these days you point out, if an attorney is making 40k a year, they’re not going to be able to pay 300 an hour for an attorney either.

            Whether or not lawyers “should” charge those rates is completely beside the point – it’s completely unsustainable on every level in the reality of the modern world.

  28. Avatar Robin says:

    My experience as a young advocate (basically a trial attorney) is that clients approach litigation self – righteously. By that I mean they believe they are in the right and have been wronged. They expect their lawyers to take on that approach. They also expect not to be charged for being represented because after all, they’re the good guys. When my doctor mentioned that lawyers charge so much “and they charge for every little thing” I asked whether our consultation would be free or discounted, as it was “only a little thing” that I saw him for. My doctor was horrified at the idea. He also missed the irony. I worked damn hard for my degrees and I pay through my teeth for the privilege of practicing. I don’t run a charity, but I do work to help solve people’s problems as best I can. I eat, sleep, dream those problems and should be paid accordingly. I have no shame in that. It’s a shame we are all painted with the same brush as sharks and usurious bastards.

  29. Avatar Area Man says:

    Nice try. I’m an IT Director for a large law firm. I deal with the same stress levels and have had similar nightmares about missing deadlines, system outages etc. I deal with it 7 days a week 365 days a year. My iPhone is never out of reach and is expected to be answered any time of the day or night. I’ve left my child’s birthday party, a Christmas party and countless other random social gatherings in order to address an “urgent” problem. 75% of the time, these urgent problems were simply the case of user error, a complete lack of basic common sense and/or 7th grade level computer skills on the part of the attorney. I’ve also eaten parking tickets (and speeding tickets) that were due to the need to get to the office quicker due such issues, or the occasional legitimate systems or network problem. I always heard Lawyers work crazy hours, and I’m sure some do, but at my firm the parking deck is mostly empty by the time I make it to my car. I could go on and on, but the point is, get over yourself. This article is almost as absurd as the ones where someone is trying to rationalize CEO pay of 500-1000 times the wage of the average employee because “they’re under a lot of stress.” Please, sell crazy somewhere else-we’re all stocked up.

    • Avatar Inspector Clouseau says:

      I would say part of your personal stress is because you work for a law firm, that level of urgency is not present in most other IT positions from my pre-attorney experience. Also, you state that 75% of your urgent problems are simple fixes. There are very few simple fixes in an attorney’s life. But I do agree that caring about clients is not justification for high pay. There are plenty of individuals in many professions who stress and think about their jobs; from IT Directors, to teachers, or auto mechanics – to me that is just an indicator that you are passionate about you do. A big difference though is that as an IT person, you would have to do something amazingly wrong to be legally barred from ever practicing in your field again or to be held personally liable for something going wrong. Attorneys on the other hand, can lose their license, be sued for malpractice, or face many other possibilities for missing a deadline, not spotting an issue, or making a typo. That makes a huge difference in the level and type of stress that attorneys face vs many other professions.

      • Avatar James Jensen says:

        I’ve hired an attorney before that regularly made typos (in important court filings, mails to opposing counsel, and settlement documents. He even mixed me and the person I was pursuing up in the settlement document!), sent me an email meant for another client (and vice versa, we had the same first name and he couldn’t be bothered to proof read the address field),

        I was always billed in at least 15 minute increments (though it’s common here to bill in 6, and that was our agreement), but rarely anything less than 30 minutes, for even a simple 2 minute phone call, or 2-3 line email.

        In addition, I was billed for the time to come into his office and dispute my bill. Most other times that he asked me to come in, he wanted to show me photos from his various family trips (must be nice to have that sort of disposable income to jet around the country with family in tow) and talk about his daughter’s soccer team. Most of what we needed to talk about took only 15-20 minutes, but he very cheerfully billed me for two hours!

        We had a very long and drawn out dispute over his billings, I complained to the bar about his numerous failings and mistakes, and nothing happened. He did not lose his license even though I was able to document his more than twenty typos and inadvertent sharing of privileged information. They called the mistakes “innocent”, but when I’m being charged $300 per hour, I expect perfection, not hastily done. Many very hardworking people don’t even make 10% of that an hour and give a lot more attention to detail.

  30. Avatar ewe2 says:

    For a person–like most regular people–who make if they are fortunate $25 an hour, or $15 an hour or $8 an hour like many do, the cost of a lawyer is extraordinary. (If court reporters fees are costing $15 grand that is just another thing wrong with the system.) I’m certain that a lot of lawyers making $375 an hour are not losing sleep over their clients’ cases. That’s what my lawyer cost when I went after a former (20+ year) employer for severance pay. For a few letters, it cost me $1,500. (His strategy didn’t work to well, either.) Maybe half of that cost I could have understood. But it was a rip-off. I hate to think about how it is for people who really seriously need representation.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      For the record, my court-approved hourly rate was $350/hour, and I lost sleep over every single one of my clients’ cases.

      Keep in mind that your lawyer’s hourly rate doesn’t necessarily reflect his or her income. Expensive hourly rates don’t always equal rich lawyers.

      In many practice areas you can only bill a few hours a day, on average, so you have to make the most of them. Or in my case, I might not actually get $350/hour at the end of the case, because I was working on contingency and had to take my fee out of the settlement.

  31. Avatar Marie says:

    Hmm (good) teachers also spent their dreams planning lessons, and assessing homework and comforting students and their parents, they are paid nothing. Though you might not get to jail (at least directly) if they don’t do their job well.

  32. Avatar lol lawyers says:

    do most lawyers even work? I’ve seen some legal bills that itemize things like the following.

    Receiving inventory list in regular mail, 0.2
    Opening inventory list, 0.2
    Reviewing inventory list, 0.2
    Preparing to revise inventory list, 0.2
    Revising inventory list, 0.2
    Dictating inventory list revision, 0.2
    Updating revised inventory list, 0.2
    Reviewing updated revised inventory list, 0.2
    Dictating updated revised inventory list, 0.2
    Placing the inventory list inside an envelope, 0.2
    Licking the glue on the envelope, 0.2
    Walking the envelope out to the mail box, 0.2

    Receiving email, 0.2
    Preparing email response, 0.2
    Dictating email, 0.2
    Sending email, 0.2

    “The hearing will be at 3pm, please review the copy of the revised inventory list I sent you. See you then!”

    So yeah, gimme a 1,000 bucks for reading some emails and rearranging some lists of stuff.

    Lawyers get paid because entire legal system in this country is built around esoteric practices and procedures that are 90% window dressing and 10% actual legal argument.

    • Avatar