[O]ne of the difficulties of hiring an attorney is it a skill you don’t exercise often. If you hired a lawyer every month, you would improve in your selection process. For this reason, when seeking an attorney, you need to start by interview at least five. Next, prepare your list of interviewing questions, call and checked their references, and finally ask to see samples of their bill.

Samples of the Bills Giving You Previews of Attorney Costs

Attorneys get paid by the hour, which is a different concept than contracting other service. For example, if you were hiring an individual to paint the outside of your home, you would probably interview several painters. The painters would visit your home, give you an estimate, and perhaps even leave a turnkey contract to review. You would then call a few of their references and then select your favorite contractor for the job. Based on contract, you would have a clear expectation of the work, the time frame to completed it, and an outline of very close or even the exact cost. You would perhaps pay a deposit and probably forgo the balance until completion.

Mind you, an occasional unexpected events might change the price slightly. Modification might even delay the project a week or two. But any changes should be explained and reasonable and part of the linear process. Finally if the painter did a terrible or unreasonable job, you could complain or report him to the Better Business Bureau. You might even have just cause for holding back final payment until corrected to your satisfaction.

Hiring and Paying an Attorney is COMPLETELY and Totally Different

Now imaging hiring that sample painter and he said… “Well, I am not exactly sure how long it will take. I really don’t know the total cost, but I want you to pre-pay me at least $2500. I will continue to bill you on an hourly rate based on how the job goes. Furthermore, we will just see how it goes and how long it takes as I am at the mercy of another 3rd party. In fact, I am not completely sure I can give you the exact outcome you want. But I will do my best and expect continued payment along the way.” You would probably show that painter to the door–and fast!

And yet… that is exactly how we hire attorneys.

Divorce and custody really ARE hard to gauge. You must understand each and every case is different. In the attorney’s defense, it is VERY hard to figure an estimated cost. While that information may make you feel disheartened, there is one indicator that shows potential cost. When considering an attorney, ask to to see copies of the bill.

[tweet “When looking at the bill, you will see what the actual hourly rate is.”]
Does she bill for travel time to court? Does she bill in hourly increments or 10 minute increments? If her assist files the motion, is the rate less? Does she mark up the cost of 3rd party players, such as process servers? If you case is reset, do you still pay for all her time that day? Does she charge for emails and phone conversations equally?

Many fees that your potential attorney charges can be revealed by seeing samples of the bill. This may sound like a petty request, but when narrowing down potential candidate, how they charge will be the different of thousands of dollars from your pocket.

How do/did you select an attorney? What additional advise would you add?

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