The approach to attorney fees vary within the areas of law in which I practice: family law, criminal defense, and civil litigation. Also, they vary among geographic locations, what I write here, however applies generally to the locations which I serve: the Bay Area including the Tri-Valley cities of : Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, & San Ramon, California.
This is the topic which creates much resentment about the legal profession. Jokes abound about lawyers who churn fees, pad bills, or will do anything for money. Like most humor, it is an outlet for anxiety, tension, or even hostility. Fortunately, most litigators, including myself, have very thick skins. After all, our work is usually unpopular with somebody. So, I’ve never known lawyer jokes to bother any litigator. Indeed, I must admit, a few have caused me to laugh loud and hardy.
I certainly do not intend to sway people from any beliefs they may hold about lawyers… talk about an insurmountable task. Also, this is, by no means, an exhaustive treatment of every issue relating to attorney fees. That would require quite a few gigs of space. The purpose of this discussion is to enlighten you and hopefully alleviate some of the tension or awkwardness should you discuss the subject of fees with a lawyer. Before I discuss attorney fees in chief, however, I offer some basic concepts which will get you and the lawyer on the same page. You may disagree with the concepts, but they exist, like it or not.
- Contrary to popular belief or urban folklore, lawyers are not obligated to give anybody free services or advice. That lawyers may do so far more than most other professions, does not change that. One should be as appreciative upon receiving such, just like if any other business gave one a freebie.
- As Abraham Lincoln set forth, TIME is what a lawyer sells. Thus, do not be shocked to learn that lawyers are going to charge you for their TIME, as do other professionals like your family doctor. Think of it this way, if you are an employee, would you expect your boss to deduct from your pay for the time you spent performing your duties on the phone? Deduct for the time you spent drafting letters? Of course, not. So, expect a lawyer to bill you for items like phone calls and letters.
- And here it comes…LAWYERS CAN BE EXPENSIVE. O.K., we got that out of the way. That said, you should not be dissuaded from seeking legal help.