Sometimes viewed as heroes, sometimes viewed as skeezy con-men, it can be hard to know whether or not to trust your lawyer.
When seeking legal advice, it’s always worth considering what’s in it for the attorney and whether they’re telling you the whole truth.
Let’s take a look at 11 secrets a lot of lawyers won’t ever tell you.
1. I Charge You a Lawyer’s Rate for Work I Hand Off to Peons
Hiring a lawyer isn’t cheap. What they might not tell you, though, is that much of their work is actually done by secretaries, interns, and paralegals.
Even though your lawyer isn’t doing most of the work, he’s still charging you the fee as if he were. While the underlings performing the work not incapable, they are in reality performing something like $50/hour work rather than $300/hour work.
2. I Charge You for Forms I Use as if I Made Them From Scratch
The truthful thing for a lawyer to do when he’s using a pre-existing template to file your forms would be to only charge you for minor edits. However, most lawyers will simply charge you as if they make the document from scratch.
3. You Don’t Always Need a Lawyer
There are a lot of basic legal tasks that you could either do on your own or with the help of a much less expensive aid such as a paralegal or other non-attorney legal professional. Things like basic wills, simple contracts, standard real estate transactions, and uncontested divorce don’t require paying an attorney their exorbitant fees.
In addition, there are tons of online resources and legal advice online at your disposal to help you understand whether or not you need legal counsel. You might be able to find solutions to basic legal issues for free or for very cheap without ever calling your lawyer.
4. My Ivy League Education Isn’t as Important as You Might Think
It might make a lawyer seem way above the competition when they graduated from an ivy league institution. And, to be fair, it does mean that their grades were good enough that they were accepted as well as the fact that they were able to afford the pricey tuition. However, where a lawyer went to school does not necessarily mean they’re better than someone who went to another school.
If the only thing a lawyer touts about themselves is their ivy league degree, you might shop around for another lawyer. Being a good attorney isn’t about the fact that you have a fancy diploma, rather it’s about the brass tacks of their practice.
5. My Fee Is Negotiable
Basically all lawyers should be open to being negotiable in regards to their hourly rate. This is particularly true is you’ll pay a cash retainer upfront or if you have a big project.
You can also ask your attorney to quote you a flat rate for the project. They’ll likely work with you on creating a flat rate that works for both of you, giving you a lot more control over how much you pay for legal fees. Plus, you won’t end up surprised in the end by a much larger bill than you expected.
When it’s time to pay for legal services, it can be stressful figuring out how to cover all the costs. If you’re involved in lawsuit, be sure to watch out for these shady scenarios of pre settlement loans.
6. I’m Hoping You Don’t Look Too Closely at the Expense Report
This is particularly true when you use the services of large law firms. These firms often get bargain rates on things like legal database subscriptions, copying services, and long-distance calls. However, instead of passing on this great deal to you, many firms will simply pocket the difference after charging you a higher rate.
This is the type of thing you want to look out for when hiring legal services. You don’t want the law firm you hire to be ripping you off when all you’re looking for is legal advice.
7. The Clock Is Always Running
Technically, your attorney is on the clock each minute they’re talking or thinking about your case. This means that if you run into your lawyer at the grocery store and talk about your case for a minute, they can bill you for that conversation.
Every time you communicate with your lawyer, you should ask: “am I being billed for this?” You don’t want to end up thinking you had a friendly chat with your attorney but it actually cost you hundreds of dollars.
8. Mediation Might Actually Be the Better Choice
There isn’t really any incentive for attorneys to encourage mediation, but it actually might be the better choice in many instances. Mediation is when a facilitator gets together with the principals, who speak for themselves rather than being represented by a lawyer.
The facilitator acts as a neutral listener and the principals are empowered to come to their own resolution. This process avoids the sinkhole of litigation, where it is stressful, costly, and can drag on for way too long.
9. I Don’t Have to Disclose My Past Mistakes
While it might be in the public record if an attorney has been subject to disciplinary actions, it isn’t the responsibility of lawyers to let their clients know if they have a history of disciplinary actions or sanctions. In order to find out, you’ll have to do research at the relevant state authority that’s responsible for licensing attorneys.
It’s good to know going in that an attorney doesn’t have to tell you if they’ve screwed up in the past. If you’re worried that your lawyer might have a shady history, it’s best to take the time to do your own research or find someone else.
10. Junior Attorneys Getting Trained Increases Your Bill
It is not uncommon that the attorney you hired isn’t the one that you’re actually working with. Clients are lured in by seasoned attorneys and then your case might actually be delegated to brand new lawyers that just got out of law school.
If having younger attorneys working on your case lowers your bill, then that’s not a problem. However, sometimes it happens that law firms will involve more people than necessary so that they can ensure that everyone in their law firm is busy. That means that you’re simply footing the bill for them training junior attorneys.
The reality of the situation is that it might take a junior lawyer ten hours to do something that a more seasoned lawyer would get done in one hour. You’ll want to make sure that you aren’t paying the same rate when the work is being done less efficiently by more people.
While we’re on the subject of the bill, attorneys also might not tell you that your bill is actually more like a guestimate. Even though lawyers bill clients in intervals of six minutes, they aren’t always paying attention with extreme precision. If you feel like you’re getting charged the exact same amount for every phone call, you might want to start timing the calls yourself.
11. I’m Not Special
There is a massive oversupply of lawyers. That means that it’s a buyers market as far as shopping around for a lawyer goes.
Every year, 45,000 law students graduate from law school. There are less than 30,000 available positions for graduates each year, leaving 15,000 graduates out of luck. The worst part of it is that about one-third of law students graduate with roughly $145,000 in student loan debt.
If you ever find your attorney doing something unethical or shady, you should feel free to report them to the state bar. Then, find yourself an attorney worthy of having you as a client, as there are countless competent lawyers waiting in the ranks.
You’ll Want to Know These Things Before Seeking Legal Advice
Are you having a hard time sleeping at night, wondering: “where can I find legal advice near me?” This question is increasingly complicated by feeling like a lawyer might not be telling you everything that it would be useful for you to know.
Seeking legal advice is never fun, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. That being said, you want to make sure that you aren’t being taken advantage of by larger than necessary bills or litigating a case that could instead be mediated.
Did you find this article about what lawyers won’t always tell you helpful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more useful content!