What Are Billable Hours?
Most attorneys in Georgia use the traditional method of billable hours instead of flat fees. Usually, this is because they want the freedom to charge as the domestic matter progresses and assure that they receive what they think their work is valued. This method is ethical, and most attorneys are honest while applying this method; however, this form of paying for litigation can be extremely expensive. The problem with most legal consumers is that they are in a situation beyond their control and very anxious when searching for legal representation. They enter into fee arrangements with attorneys, never realizing what they are agreeing to or for how long they are agreeing to it. They agree to a certain retainer amount and pay this amount to their attorney, assuming that amount should cover the matter.
Potential clients need to realize this is never the case. Potential clients should discuss the possible length of time their litigation may take and the inherent costs. However, most very rarely do when entering into a billable agreement.
When an attorney charges $350 or more per hour, a simple calculation could show the potential expense of this billable system. On this system, hours are billed every time work is done, when the case is discussed, emails are sent, when staff works on the case (usually billed at a different rate), during preparation for hearings, and when actual hearings are attended. Hours are also calculated when you are waiting for a turn in a crowded courtroom and waiting for litigation to be prepared. Over time, anyone can see how expensive this type of hourly litigation becomes in family law cases.
Billable Hours Often Leads To No Representation
In the end, most clients cannot afford this litigation. Unfortunately too often they realize too late that they entered into an agreement they cannot afford. Invoices inevitably are not paid, and the attorney-client relationship degenerates. The attorney seeks collections and withdraws from the matter. The client loses their legal investment and now has no attorney. However, they still owe a substantial sum to the attorney. Other times they reach disadvantaged settlements simply because they cannot afford to litigate further.
This billable method is not realistic to most clients in Atlanta and surrounding areas. However, the majority of people continue to enter into them. This is normally because they hear that an attorney cannot speculate how much litigation is necessary. Divorce attorneys often explain that it is the only realistic method to fully litigate the matter and only provide this thorough litigation.
Flat Fees for Domestic Law Matters
The other billing method is simply quoting flat fees, while the attorney commits to certain work in a case or the entire matter. This method is much more transparent and places more of the case’s burden on the attorney. An experienced attorney should be able to assume this risk. Having done thousands of cases, I can easily gauge the action necessary and where the matter may go in the litigation process. Book your free case evaluation with me by calling my office at 770-824-3370.
This method allows the attorney-client relationship to flourish. The attorney does not have to destroy this relationship by enforcing an agreement the client could never honor. It also motivates the attorney to expedite matters and not expand matters with unnecessary litigation and actions; see the discovery process blog.
NOT ALL FLAT FEE ATTORNEYS ARE CREATED EQUAL
If you have an attorney quote you a price for an action that seems well below market value and too good to be true, run! Many attorneys advertise flat fees that charge well below the realistic amount to prosecute a matter fully. Inevitably you will find yourself dealing with multiple inexperienced individuals and not receiving the care your case deserves.
The flat fee charged should be realistic to the potential time necessary to litigate a matter(no matter how long it takes) AND fair to the attorney and client. If you speak to several attorneys, and they all charge a $5,0000 retainer for a divorce, then speak to a flat fee attorney who quotes you $1,500, be weary because this amount would be insufficient to fulfill the legal obligation.
What Can You Do When Your Attorney Charges Billable Hours?
Be a wise legal consumer, do not enter into billable hour agreements you know you cannot afford. All litigation takes months, not days. Avoid being fooled by under-market promises. Ask your attorney what to expect in the litigation, what they are prepared for, how long it could take, and if you will be dealing with the individual named on the door or an army of inexperienced, inexpensive new attorneys.
Looking for an experienced Flat Fee attorney for your Family Law case? Book your free case evaluation by filling out the appointment form below