Tick-Tock: Did You Know Your Lawyer Charges Round The Clock?

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By Divorce Information NOW, Guest Author - November 22, 2015

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Knowing how your lawyer charges can make a huge difference in the cost of your divorce. Lawyers bill in increments of hours — often in 10 or 15-minute segments. So whether you talk for 1 minute, 7 minutes or all 15 minutes of a lawyer's 15-minute scale, you will be charged the same amount of money (namely the entirety of the 15-minute rate).

So don't call every time you have a suggestion or even a question. Few thoughts are so timely that they can't wait. We suggest that you keep a running list of questions and comments that you want to share with your lawyer. At that time, when you do need to call your lawyer to answer or inform him/her about a topic with a time sensitive component, add in those questions. Thus, you have "killed two birds with one stone"; you have conveyed the information and been sensitive to cost savings.

Lawyers and their billing departments make mistakes, just like everyone else. You will feel more comfortable refuting a charge when you have been meticulous in your own record keeping. Place a timer next to your phone so that you are aware of the time and the costs associated with a call. Notate the time spent and the date of the call in a phone log, as well as a detailed accounting of the covered topics. That way you can argue about the time billed or, when you need to cover a topic for a second time, you can negotiate the costs by referring to the earlier conversation.

Divorce is nerve wracking. Often when we are anxious, we don't hear the answers given to the questions we have posed.

Write down the answers your lawyer gives to your questions or statements, so you don’t have to ask them a second time.

And talking about your anxieties. Don't waste money talking to your lawyer about how you are feeling.
Therapists are cheaper and better qualified to help!!!

Legal fees can add up quickly when lawyers work around the clock and even when they don’t. Some lawyers charge for travel time, after hour calls and calls they take at home.

If your lawyer charges for travel time schedule phone conferences for that time. If for some reason the lawyer is unavailable to talk, notify him/her that you shouldn’t be charged.

When it comes to time in court….there is no such thing as a free lunch. Determine how your lawyer charges while in court.

Does he charge for waiting time?

Does he include his time at lunch or at court “breaks” if you are in court all day?

How does he charge for court time if he has multiple hearings at the same time?

If you have to pay for the lunch hour, then eat with your lawyer and ask him to discuss the court proceedings, the direction of your case and the questions you have saved for the “lunch hour.” Also, it is a good idea to keep a log of your conversations with the lawyer so that if you can track any discrepancies with the bills from your lawyer.

Extra! Extra! Extra!

Be sure to read all about the extra fees in your retainer agreement!

When interviewing for lawyers, ask how much his paralegals bill for their time on your case. Also, what does he charge for copies of documents? Your home copier or any outside copying service, whether you make the copies yourself or have them made for you, is almost always cheaper than a lawyer’s rates. Does he ever include another lawyer from the firm in a meeting and if so, are you charged a second fee? How does he charge for filing fees? Are there miscellaneous fees you have forgotten to ask about?

Does your lawyer expect a tip? Often, court time equates to a higher bill. So settling a case rather than litigating your divorce may not be as financially advantageous to your lawyer. 

Often, court time equates to a higher bill. So settling a case rather than litigating your divorce may not be as financially advantageous to your lawyer. If your lawyer is a litigating attorney and the case settles, does he/she charge or expect a “bonus”? If so, at what rate and how is the amount determined? Also when is the TIP due and who is responsible for the payment?

Knowledge is power in divorce as in all things. Knowing how a lawyer charges can determine whether you hire him. And knowing how a lawyer charges can determine how you use his time.

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