Admittedly, lawyers aren’t always the most “touchy feely” crowd. Usually, people don’t want to have to hire a lawyer for obvious reasons that include spending your hard earned money and dealing with problems you’d rather avoid. So, if you’re finding that it is necessary for you to hire a lawyer, consider these 5 things lawyers don’t want you to know about hiring a lawyer.
I wrote this article for a couple of reasons:
1. It has been my experience that most people have a love/hate relationship with lawyers and the “intimidation factor” when seeking services is one of the reasons. Unfortunately, most lawyers play up the intimidation factor as a way to project an aura of prestige.
2. It is my belief that that legal services are becoming more “user friendly” and accessible, and, in the interest of promoting this trend there are a few things that to understand that can help you avoid needless stress.
If you’re not sure yet if you need to hire a lawyer check out “Do I Need A Lawyer In A Do It Yourself World?”
Tips for Hiring the Right Lawyer
Hiring a Lawyer Can Be Intimidating and the Following Are Tips To Make The Process Easier and Perhaps Even Enjoyable.
1. Unless A Lawyer Is Retired or Semi-Retired, They Almost Always Are Accepting New Clients
Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, “we are accepting new clients”, as if it is a rare privilege to pay your hard earned money to this law firm. While there may be a few lawyers in niche areas that have achieved this coveted status, most lawyers practicing run of the mill legal services are in the business of accepting new clients just like any other service oriented professional. This tip, and realizing that this lawyer is not irreplaceable, may impact not only your choice of a lawyer but also the fees agreed upon.
2. Go With An Educated Referral From A Trusted Friend Or Colleague Whenever Possible
Referrals are valuable for a few reasons regardless whether you’re looking for an estate planning attorney, business attorney, or litigator. For example, if an estate planning attorney is referred by a friend or another advisor, the attorney will not only be beholden to you as client but also to the source of the referral. The referred attorney will be thinking about doing the best possible job, not only for you but also in the hope of pleasing the referral source and thereby encouraging future referrals.
3. Know That Lawyers Most Often Will Negotiate On Fees and Many Offer Flat Fee Programs
Legal fees are not always set in stone. In fact, it may surprise you to know that they industry trend is away from harsh hourly rates toward “value based” legal services or flat fee legal services. While some firms may refuse to bend, many attorneys will negotiate fees to land a new client; particularly, if there is a fair amount of work to be done. An example of this is our Florida estate planning package pricing.
Most estate planning attorneys in Florida will offer a package of documents including a Florida revocable living trust, pour over last will in Florida, Florida durable power of attorney, Florida medical directive, transfer deeds and inclusive consult time for one manageable flat rate. Often, estate planning for couples in Florida, and other states, is offered with package pricing as well. Taking this further, the attorney’s flat rate may not be set in stone and might be reduced for purchasing a volume of services or even due to the time of year if the lawyer isn’t as busy.
4. Go With A Lawyer Who Focuses At Least 50% Of His/Her Practice On Your Area Of Concern
Using the same estate planning attorney example, I will suggest that you may not want to have your divorce attorney draw up your estate planning unless he or she regularly also focuses on estate planning. This sounds like common sense; however, some lawyers will moonlight in a desired area of service to bring in extra revenue simply because a client asked for help. The problem with the moonlighting approach, is that legal practice is inherently complex, and it serves you better to work with someone who is up to date with current law and who has substantial experience in your requested area of legal services.
5. Get A Clear Description Of All Services To Be Performed Prior To Initiating Services
This tip coincides with #3 above and the logic is that any services to be conducted on a flat fee basis should be spelled out in detail as to what will be delivered. Think of this in the same way you would if hiring a contractor for a home remodel project. All of the itemized services, labor and materials would be listed. In the case of our example of estate planning services, all of the documents to be delivered and whether consult time is all inclusive as well as filing fees, costs, copies, estate planning binder, etc.
Remember, at the end of the day, legal services are just that…services and the customer’s needs carry weight. I hope this is empowering if you’re walking through this process or considering it in the future.
Steve Gibbs, Esq.
This article is an updated version of an original post dated October 15, 2015.