So you think you know your lawyer? Most lawyers are honest and professional, and as decent people, they are simply striving to have their fair share without resorting to something dishonest and illegal. But like any other industry, the law business does get its share of rotten apples and bad elements. Thus, you may experience devious lawyers who over bill you for the simplest services or dull-eyed lawyers who are unexplainably incompetent.
Executives at leading finance community and online adviser Wise Bread interviewed several lawyers who divulged dirty secrets that you don’t know.
1. According to Steve Brodsky of Brodsky Law Firm, various documents that lawyers prepare for their clients are actually slightly edited versions of old template documents. Lawyers then charge clients as if the documents were completely new.
2. Brodsky also admitted that a huge part of the lawyer’s work is actually done by secretaries, interns, and paralegals. He then charges clients his regular fee as if he was the one doing the legwork. Brodsky said that lawyers should lean towards honesty by not overcharging their clients.
3. According to Alison Anthoine, an executive at the consulting firm Quantum Media, due to bulk requirements, large law firms often get discounted rates for services such as long-distance calls, photocopying services, and subscriptions to legal databases (i.e., scale of economies). However, rather than letting their clients enjoy the savings, some firms actually mark up the rates then keep the difference.
4. Aaron Street, the webmaster of the law-practice blog Lawyerist, revealed that a lot of basic legal tasks can be done on your own or with the assistance of non-attorney legal professionals. These simple tasks include basic wills, normal real estate transactions, or simple contract.
5. A lawyer can charge his client for each minute he spends on talking or thinking about the case. For example, if a client, by chance, meets her lawyer at the grocery store and she asks something about the case, the lawyer can bill her for that conversation. Thus, before initiating a conversation with an attorney, it is important to ask whether the conversation is billable or not.
6. Don’t believe an attorney if he says he is knows a lot about the law. The fact is, most lawyers specialize in specific niche. So don’t expect good results for your divorce case if you took the services of someone who is specialized in maritime law. Bradley Gammel of Gammel & Associates recommends that before you sign off the contract, ask your candidate lawyer how long he has practiced in the specific area where you require his help.
7. Client, beware! Some lawyers have histories of disciplinary actions and sanctions in the past, Philip Segal of Charles Griffin Intelligence says. You can check public records for your lawyer’s disciplinary history, but this may not be enough. To get full details, you may need to go to the right state authority that issued your lawyer’s license.
8. Don’t believe that lawyers are good if they put on a tough act like what you see in legal dramas aired on television or movies. Berlinda Rachman, a specialist in divorce law, revealed that aggressive lawyers actually cost you money. However, the real aim of their tough grandstanding in court is to impress you.
Now that you know what goes behind the court’s curtains, you can now choose your attorney wisely.