Don’t Let Your Attorney Get Away With It
By Andrew Phelps, Partner Fort Phelps PLLC
The economic downturn of 2008 and subsequent snail-like recovery has impacted every type of business, as well as every industry. The capitalistic attitude of the United States has always produced a survival of the fittest reality. However, the constant changing and evolving technologies of our current society, coupled with the stagnation of the country’s growth, have forced many to throw longstanding business models out the door as people and companies everywhere strive to stay afloat. The legal industry hasn’t recovered from the crash, perhaps never will (insert lawyer joke here), but those who have managed to survive have remembered an all too valuable lesson: lawyers are service providers and the client is priority number 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Any individual who works for a living, whether as an owner or as an employee, does so in order to produce income. Yes, some people love what they do and sacrifice greater wealth to continue doing so, but the goal for all of us is to keep more money in our pockets, our family’s pockets, and in our communities. The American consumer is smarter than given credit, however, too many allow our service providers to rob us blind.
Attorneys everywhere, especially large law firms where 60-80% of revenue goes straight to overhead and other expenses, turn over pillows, look under all pieces of furniture, and investigate all cracks to squeeze every last penny out of their clients. Associates and paralegals must attain certain billable hours for job security or to move up the partner track, partners have to generate certain levels of revenue to climb the ladder, and the big wig institutes $200-$500 minimums just for receiving an e-mail or a phone call. Smaller firms may seem more admirable, but many hold you by your ankles shaking out whatever remains to keep up with the massive expense of litigation.
From an attorney and dedicated member of the region’s economic community, don’t let your legal advisors get away with it any more. Professional legal assistance isn’t a day to day necessity, but it is always recommended in certain situations and instances. As an American, you are free to find a lawyer who truly works to service your needs. I have compiled some red flags for you to keep in mind the next time you work with an attorney.
If any of these issues occur promptly object!
- Charging for Consultations
If an attorney wants you to swipe a credit card or open the checkbook before you’ve even discussed your issue, run, don’t walk away as fast as you can. Never pay a lawyer before you have had a chance to discuss your situation.
- Billing and Charging for Phone Calls, Texts, or E-mails
Certain attorneys and law firms institute minimums to receive and or send an email or phone call. Whether it is a one sentence correspondence or a thirty second call, prepare to be billed. This is unacceptable and causes many people to avoid attorneys until “stuff” hits the fan. Find a legal advisor who encourages you to reach out and is upfront about when the clock is running (when they are charging you for their time). Short emails and phone calls can usually solve the majority of problems and should never be charged to the client.
- Unwilling to Discuss Costs
If a lawyer has attained three to five years of experience, chances are they have a good idea of what different types of matters will or should cost the client. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney to estimate the costs associated with their services. If your legal advisor is unwilling to discuss their billing methods or work with you in terms of costs and payment, then you need a different attorney. Remember, this country has more than enough lawyers and not all of us are on billboards or the sides of buses.
Attorneys are labeled as professional service providers for a reason and as a consumer, you should hold them to that standard. Lawyers should be in business to improve the situation of their client. Yes, our goal is to maximize profit, but don’t ever let an attorney sacrifice your best interests for his billable hour count. The right lawyer awaits you, don’t be afraid to find them.
How many lawyer jokes are there?
Only three. The rest are true stories.