How to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck When You Hire an Attorney in a Family Law Case

by Martha Akers

When you have to retain an attorney, you may be faced with “sticker shock.” How do you know if you have been quoted a reasonable fee, and how can you get the most service for your fee?

Typically, a client makes an appointment to meet with me. Based upon that initial meeting, I am able to quote an initial nonrefundable fee and a cost deposit. The initial nonrefundable fee covers a portion of the anticipated costs of the attorney and the paralegal. The cost deposit pays for filing fees charged by the court clerk, fax costs, postage, copy costs, etc. In short, the cost deposit is for any incidental costs.

In family law cases, the fees I charge are based upon my hourly rate and that of my paralegal. Your fee depends upon the amount of time my support staff and I will work your case.

When I quote a fee, I consider my experience. I have been licensed to practice law for 23 years. Based upon my experience, I also evaluate the complexities of your case. Does your case present new issues? When I set a fee, I know that I have technical resources available to me that may minimize your fee. I am aware of similar fees charged by attorneys in cases such as yours in the geographic area in which I practice. I consider whether your case will prohibit me from accepting other cases. These are a few of the things I think about when setting a fee.

When you hire me, I understand that you are making an investment. I care about your case and I want to do a good job for you. You must have confidence and trust in me. You and I need to have a good working relationship. I will treat you with respect. Do not be alarmed if I tell you both good things and bad things. I will be honest with you. I will give you a “road map” describing how your case may unfold and the possible consequences of actions and decisions that you make.

So, what can you do to get the most bang for your buck?

  1. You should be on time for your appointment.
  2. You should be relaxed; I am your advocate, your voice in court, I am not the enemy. If you are nervous, you may not remember what I have told you or what we have discussed.
  3. You should be prepared for your appointment. Many of my clients bring notes or written questions with them to an appointment.
  4. You must be honest with me. I cannot help you if I do not know the truth.
  5. You should behave respectfully toward me and my staff.
  6. You should be concise in what you tell me. Typically, I do not need to have the same information repeated to me. If I have questions, I will ask you. If you repeatedly ask the same questions or give me the same information, you are wasting your time and money because you are billed for this time.
  7. You should listen to what I tell you. Listening has two components. First, you should hear what I say to you and, if necessary, you should take notes. Second, you should follow my advice. You have hired me based upon my experience and your confidence and trust me. Not following my advice can result in additional fees and undesired and unexpected outcomes.
  8. I understand that you have many questions and lots of information to give me; however, you might find that it is more cost-effective to contact me when you have multiple questions rather than contacting me daily.
  9. You should not listen to legal advice that friends and family may give you. You are an individual and your case is unique. Your friends and family can provide a great support system for you, and in many cases I encourage you to allow them to help you by talking with them about personal issues you may have.
  10. Likewise, I am not a therapist. You do not want me to become personally involved in your case because then I may lose my ability to be objective and to give you good advice. I understand you may be anxious, depressed, unhappy, nervous, angry, etc.; however, I am not able to help you with these particular issues. Depending upon your situation, I may suggest that you meet with a qualified therapist.

I look forward to helping you solve your legal puzzle

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