Family Lawyer Costs and Fees
For most individuals, hiring a lawyer can be an extremely daunting task because they have never had to do so before. Price is often the biggest concern as most people have little idea what a lawyer costs beyond the estimate of “a lot.”
At Devry Smith Frank LLP (DSF) we are committed to not only making legal representation accessible to more people but also ensuring the costs to you are transparent and understandable. To take the mystery out of legal billing, this is our breakdown of legal fees and cost at DSF
Facts About Family Lawyer Costs
- Lawyers Charge by the Hour: A lawyer, like any professional, is charging for their time. This means any time your lawyer spends on your case will be included in your total costs. Phone calls with your lawyer, research, in court time, etc. are all billable.
- A Final Cost Cannot be Given Until the End: Again, because of the hourly billing nature of hiring a lawyer, total costs can only be estimated until services are completed.
- Uncontested Divorce Costs: The one exception to this is uncontested divorce. With this type of divorce, there are no unexpected variables to consider which means we are able to know ahead of time exactly how many hours and fees there will be. At DSF, we charge $1,500 for an uncontested divorce and this covers:
- Serving divorce documents to the other side
- Court filing fees
- The clearance certificate from the federal government
- Costs of court forms
- A small portion of the salary for the legal professional who gathers these materials
What Determines Costs of a Lawyer
Some people mistakenly think of legal representation as a service similar to a mechanic, but there are few similarities with this. A mechanic, for nearly every job, has an accurate guideline of how many hours a certain service will take and what parts will be needed. This allows for an accurate cost up front.
A lawyer has to deal with far more variables because they are working to fix situations involving humans, not cars. If someone raises arguments or grievances late into the case, or if new information is found, this can impact how long the case takes and how much it costs.
These other variables will also impact the final costs of hiring a lawyer:
- Combativeness: If either party in a case is bent on fighting, there is little a lawyer can do to speed this up without losing you the outcomes you want.
- Complexities: Something as simple as determining a person’s salary can be made difficult if they are self-employed or have multiple or varying avenues of income. If one or more complexities such as this exist, the hours spent on the case will increase.
- Court Time: There are several variables that will influence if court is needed and which court your case will be seen in. In many courts, there will be a waiting time to even see the judge and these are also billable hours as every minute your lawyer is in court, they are unable to work on other cases.
- Document Disclosure: One of the few ways you can hasten the process, is to provide necessary documents as quickly as possible. If your lawyer has to spend time trying to get the documents from you or another source, this will also increase your bill.
- Phone Calls: When you hire a lawyer, you are entitled to get a full understanding of the proceedings and to have your concerns addressed. However, calling your lawyer for every small matter, especially non-legal matters, uses up their time and your money. To minimize your bill, make sure you are keeping phone calls to a minimum unless absolutely necessary.
- Type of Case: Complicated cases like the ones pertaining to custody and access to children will take more time. This is inevitable and it is necessary to spend this time in order to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all parties, especially the children involved.
Importance of Quality Legal Representation
The hourly costs for lawyers can vary greatly with everything from $100/hour to $1000/ hour being common. When choosing a lawyer, this is rarely a time to be searching for a bargain. Generally, a lawyer making upwards of $300/hour is one who has experience and that experience can save you far more in the long run.
Not only is an experienced lawyer able to get you a better settlement, they are also likely to be able to resolve certain issues more quickly. What might take a $100/hour lawyer 3 hours to do, could take a $300/hour lawyer only 1. This ends up costing you the same amount but saving you time overall.