Your Legal Costs
How much your case costs depends a lot on how easy it is for the parties to agree. If one party is completely unreasonable, the fees in your case will increase dramatically.
Things that tend to lead to higher fees, besides an unreasonable opposing party (our clients are never unreasonable, just sometimes misunderstood initially), are:
► Contested child custody or visitation, particularly when one parent feels that the other parent should be kept away from the children.
► Alimony and child support where there is something difficult about one of the party's earnings, such as a self-employed person, an under-employed person, or someone whose income is changing considerably from what it was in the recent past.
► Property issues where the assets themselves are simply hard to value or were acquired before, during and after the marriage.
These days, for our firm to handle a case and cost less than $3,500 the parties must be in agreement about all aspects of the case from the beginning.
Attorney fees range from $425 an hour to $225 an hour. Paralegals range from $95 to $145 and secretarial fees are $45 per hour when they work on your case.
Some people see our hourly rates and think, "Wow! I can do better than that!" Undoubtedly, you can find lawyers who have lower rates. But we know of many instances when our experience, knowledge of the law and the court system has allowed us to obtain a favorable result for our clients at significantly less cost than someone else who might not see the opportunity.
We also like to do things right in the case from the beginning. We tell our clients what steps they should take early, because so often that is when the case is determined. Later it becomes more difficult and expensive to try to undo what is already in place.
Initial consultations are at the lawyers regular hourly rate, payable in advance. Typically these meetings last for up to an hour, and we can tell you how we feel your case should go and how much we think it will cost. Sometimes all we ever do is have the initial consultation with a client, during which we advise the potential client not to proceed, for one reason or another. In those instances you walk in with a problem and walk out with a solution so you can get on with your life.
Not all law firms charge for initial consultations. However, if you are considering an experienced attorney who has enough spare time that he can, or needs to, give it away for free in order to entice you in the door, then I think there is another question you need to ask. Why does this attorney have so much free time? If you can answer that question in a way that suggests this is someone you should hire to represent you, then by all means do so.
If you decide you want to hire us and we decide we want you as a client, then we tell you what the initial retainer fee will be and once you pay that you become a client. We then charge fees and costs against your retainer balance. You will receive a monthly statement. If your retainer balance is depleted, you may have to pay an additional retainer. In most divorce, custody or support cases the retainer amount is refundable if you later change your mind or your case settles and you didn't incur that much in fees and costs.
Our clients are in control of how much their case costs. There are always opportunities to settle, although sometimes the settlement terms appear unacceptable. But these terms must be weighed against the cost of further litigation and the probability you can sustain your position. We can advise you regarding the choices, but the ultimate decision as to whether you should continue to litigate is always up to you.