So, you’re getting divorced. You are beginning to realize that everything you have worked so hard to accumulate will be divvied up soon and then, BAM! It hits you. You are going to have to hire an attorney to handle the matter. Your mind starts to race about how you are going to manage your financial affairs, much less pay for an attorney. You think to yourself, “lawyers are too expensive!” Well, the fact of the matter is, lawyers are expensive. Here are some tips on how to get the most bang for your buck when going through a divorce.
- Hire a family law attorney. In today’s legal world, it pays to hire someone who specializes in the particular type of law in which you need help. You may think that hiring your “cheap” bankruptcy attorney is the best route to take in your divorce, but it is fair to say there is a good chance your lawyer will not know the intricacies of family law as well as someone who only practices family law, day-in and day-out. After all, you would not hire a brain surgeon to perform your triple-bypass surgery! The same goes for the law. It is smart, and cheaper, to hire a family law attorney and get it done right the first time.
- Hire an attorney who bills by the tenth (.1) of an hour, rather than two-tenths (.2) of an hour. When you go in and visit with your potential attorney ask to see their retainer agreement. Some attorneys will bill for their time by six-minute increments (.1), while others will bill by 12-minute increments (.2). This means that when an attorney is working on your file, they will look at how many six or 12-minute increments went by, to see how much you should be charged. It may seem counterintuitive, but this distinction can actually make a $300 an hour lawyer more expensive than a $400 an hour lawyer. For instance, imagine there are two lawyers: 1) Lawyer A, who charges $400 an hour, but charges by the tenth (.1) of an hour; and 2) Lawyer B, who charges $300 an hour, but charges you by two-tenths (.2) of an hour. If you email Lawyer A, who reviews and responds to your email within five minutes, you are charged $40 for the exchange. This same email exchange with Lawyer B would cost you $60 even though he “charges less per hour.” If there is going to be a lot of communication between you and your attorney in your particular divorce, this is an important distinction to make.
- Consolidate your thoughts before making phone calls or emails. While your case is important to us, you must realize that we have other clients who also have needs. Consolidating your thoughts into one email helps us maintain organization in your file, keep track of the issues you want to be addressed, and prevent “lost time.” For instance, if you send 100 emails a day, it is tough for any attorney to keep track of where you may have mentioned a certain issue that you want to be addressed/answered. Having an attorney search through multiple emails to see where you may have said something is a waste of time and your money. On top of all of this, attorneys can charge .1 or .2 for every single action they take. Sending an attorney one email that takes them half an hour to read instead of sending him or her 20 emails (each billed by a .1) can make a difference of $450 if the lawyer charges $300 an hour!
- Don’t call the attorney’s cell phone on weekends or evenings, unless there is an actual emergency. I usually will give out my cell phone number to my clients. That being said, my retainer agreement says that the client will be charged an automatic half an hour charge for simply dialing my personal number if they call me at night or on the weekends. Sometimes there is an actual emergency; however, a lot of times there is nothing I can do until the next day or Monday anyway. Think before you make the call. Is it really worth $150?
- Listen to your lawyer. We as lawyers are tasked to do what is best for you. This does not mean we are your cheerleaders. Good lawyers should not blindly lead their clients into battle, saying “you can do it!” if the law says otherwise. While there are times it may be in your best interest to have a judge decide a matter, there are other times the best advice we can give is to not do something. While it may not be what you want to hear, it may just save you some money (and some self-esteem).
- Be civil. You may not be at fault for your divorce. You may hate your soon-to-be-ex. But acting on your hate is oftentimes expensive. My dad once told me “it is easier to catch a bee with honey than vinegar.” While being nice may not always work, it is at least worth a shot.
- If possible, reach an agreement. Trials are expensive. It may seem like a breeze on Law and Order or Matlock, but it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare properly for a trial. At $300 an hour, it does not take long to add up to a significant amount. You must weigh the cost of going to trial against what it is you are arguing over. I have seen parties fight over things as small as crock-pots. While the parties could have purchased seven new crockpots, each, given the amount of communication between the attorneys on such a small asset, the parties could not see past their anger for either to say “take it.” While I get that there is “principal” and then there is “principle,” sometimes making a stand just isn’t worth the money.
We at Severson, Wogsland & Liebl would be happy to speak with you about your divorce case. Our Family Law Team can be reached at 701-297-2890 or send us an email below.
The material provided to you within this blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for advice regarding your particular case.