With any legal issue, it is a mistake not to consider your legal fees and expenses. There are other costs associated with legal matters – especially high conflict, court-based cases. Stress, anxiety, and the impact on your time and children are all real considerations. Chances are you have not been involved in a court matter or litigation before this point. I like to compare going through a Massachusetts divorce or other matter to getting a root canal. It is not a particularly enjoyable experience, and you want it done right by an experienced professional – but you do not want to pay more than you should.
You may have heard stories about people spending huge sums on their Massachusetts divorce, or other family law cases. With our guidance, you can carefully consider more efficient options for resolving your legal matter, including mediation or the collaborative law process.
Hourly Billing vs. Fixed, Up-front Pricing
At Next Phase Legal LLC, we don’t think your legal fees should be shrouded in mystery or based upon a spinning dial. Hourly billing, the mainstay of the legal profession, brings with it a host of negatives for you. For one thing, the lack of certainty is problematic. Hourly billing can cause misunderstandings, and even cause some resentment between lawyers and their clients. For example, are you looking forward to paying for a minimum of 12 minutes (current industry standard) for every email and telephone call? If your attorney or mediator has an hourly rate of $350.00, then that is $70.00.
Do you want to work with a professional to help you solve your problems, or do you want to purchase little snippets of time?
Hourly billing can reward inefficient attorneys and mediators. Just think about it, the more time that gets billed to you, the more you pay and the more money the attorney or mediator makes. Many law firms have billable hour requirements that the lawyers must hit in order to receive bonuses or other levels of compensation.
As your retainer funds dissipate, you will be required to replenish them, and the pattern continues. You may feel as though there is no end in sight.
Some attorneys and mediators are petrified of offering flat fees. What if they must do more work on a case then they planned for? With hourly billing, they know they will be paid for the work they do, and if you cannot keep up with your legal fees, a lawyer may – and usually will – withdraw from your case. Then, you are in a tough position and may not have enough money left for an initial retainer with a new attorney.
A Better Approach: Up-front, Flat Fees
Within the legal industry, more and more clients want alternatives to hourly billing. Our lawyers and mediators have been providing flat fees and other alternative billing options for years, so it is nothing new for us. Recently, we have shifted to more of a project management approach to managing your case, which is a type of project. Companies engineer and manufacture complex fighter planes and then sell them for a specified price. Shouldn’t this be possible with just about every type of legal matter?
We think so.
True, there can be variables with court-based cases; such as how can your attorney predict every contingency, or account for the other side taking some extreme actions, such as trying to bury you with discovery requests and unnecessary hearings. With some thoughtfulness and by applying some parameters to the scope of the work, then risk can be fairly apportioned between you (the client) and the law firm responsible for the work.
With mediation and collaborative-based forms of resolution, there is more control over the process, allowing a fixed fee that can be even more attractive because there is less risk of things going off the rails when compared to a court-based matter.
We’ll provide our best estimates on what to expect in terms of your legal fees and discuss what fee options may be most efficient for your situation so you can make an informed decision.
Divorce Lawyer Fees
Although a fixed fee may not be a good option for every case, we will work with you to develop a fee arrangement that is workable from your perspective and ours. Many of our divorce mediation clients take advantage of one of our flat-fee mediation packages saving thousands or even tens of thousands when compared to other options.
When it comes to your legal fees, we promise you the following:
- Transparent – Your written fee agreement will clearly explain the terms of our services and your fees. Clear and straightforward invoices provide enough detail so you know what you are paying for.
- Choices – We provide the option of traditional hourly billing or a flat fee for our services for most situations. Due to the variables with some legal matters, a fixed fee may not make sense for you or us, but sometimes a series of flat fees tied to certain events and stages in your case is a workable alternative.
- Reasonable – We don’t bill for typical expenses such as routine postage and copies. If you have an extraordinary amount of expenses in these areas, such as boxes of files that we must copy, then there could be some additional charges billed at an administrative rate.
- Travel time – Most attorneys charge their full hourly rate for time spent traveling to and from meetings and court on your behalf. We charge ½ that amount. If traffic is snarled, that’s not your fault so we don’t pass on the additional expense.
- Published Hourly Rates – Our current (2020) hourly rates for attorneys and mediators range from $300.00 to $385.00 per hour.
- Efficient – Hourly billing rewards the inefficient lawyer. That doesn’t seem right to us, but it’s true. At Next Phase Legal in Norfolk, MA we strive for efficiency to help you manage your legal fees. We use project management applications where you can view your case documents, check upcoming appointments with your attorney or mediator, and communicate with us through the secure client portal, alleviating risks inherent with email.
- Low-Stress Location – Costs also include your time and the impact of stress. Our Norfolk, MA office, located along Rt.115 and close to Rt. 109, has ample free parking. Forget about frantically looking for a pricey space in a Boston parking garage or finding on-street parking.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.