How to pick a lawyer or better yet, do without one

Lawyers are in business to make money, You cannot blame them for that. It bothers Me to see how many of them try to hide that fact, they claim to be in business to “make a difference”, “Help You”, “fight the big guy”. The truth of the matter is they are no more honest than the insurance company that they claim is trying to take advantage of You. There is a lot to know when You think You need a lawyer, I say think because You do not always have to use a lawyer to settle a personal injury case or even a divorce. There are plenty of scum lawyers all over the world that will find out how much they can get out of You and then throw You away like garbage.

Hourly billing: Make no mistake it is almost every law firm’s objective to bill as much as possible to each account and YOU are the account. But what about contingency cases? Don’t They only get paid if They win the case? Yes, they only get paid if they win the case but they do not take the case unless they know they are going to cover their billing rate. Most of these cases are insurance cases and the Law firms love these, they can easily milk billing hours and do very little work to get the same amount that the insurance company would give You without a lawyer. The bread and butter of these cases are the car accidents that have an insurance policy that will pay 25,000 dollars. You fake a bad neck or back or maybe You really have one of those. The insurance company might start with a 10,000 dollar offer just to make You go away but You do not need a lawyer to refuse it, just tell them You know a lawyer would get more so why don’t You give Me a real offer. There is going to be a maximum payout on this case of 25,000 dollars and ANY lawyer can get it easily but when they get it they will milk hours and hours on the case so that they can boost their total take. The agreement They make with You is You get 2 thirds and they get 1 third but that is AFTER they take out their “expenses”, these expenses are billing hours, travel, lunches and even entertainment. Anything they can put on Your case, they can and will.  At the end of the case, they get the easy 25,000 and You are expecting 16,750 for Yourself and 8250 for them. But wait a minute They write You a check for 8500.00 and You think it is a mistake but then You read the fine print of Your contract with them and see pages of expenses charged to Your account and it is them that got the bigger portion and You that got the smaller portion. This is because every phone call they make to the insurance company they bill You a minimum hourly amount, every time You call to ask about Your case, they bill You,   They call the insurance company and make a demand that they know will not be accepted and yes, You get billed again. Many lawyers will tell You that You will get many times what Your case is really worth just to get You to hire them but many times the amount that the insurance company told You they would pay is more than what Your final amount is because the lawyer takes the lions share. You are better off taking 15,000 directly from the insurance company in the beginning than stretching Your case out for months with a lawyer that gets a 25,000 settlement if that 25,000 turns into 8000 in Your pocket. For Personal injury cases it is very important that You find out what is realistic about the amount Your case is worth. If it is a car accident that amount is most likely the policy limits of the Person responsible for Your accident or even Your own policy.

If You do not think You can negotiate with the insurance company, You can Negotiate Your case with the lawyer first. You do not have to pay Your lawyer 1/3 of  Your case and You do not have to agree to a billing rate of what they normally charge. Most of the time they are using paralegals that they pay 15 dollars an hour and charge You as much as 200 dollars per hour. You can offer the lawyer 25 percent of Your case and a billing rate of no more than 40 dollars per hour if using a paralegal and 100 dollars per hour if using a lawyer. It will be easier to use a lawyer to fight the insurance company, for sure but You can insist on a better portion of the case. ANY lawyer can get the 25000 dollar case, there is no reason to use the one that spends 10 million a year on advertising, that is the guy that will take much more from You and for no extra benefit to You. A first year lawyer can get You the same amount as the big firm in most car accident cases so there is no reason to give up so much of Your award money.

Divorce Lawyers: You think personal injury lawyers are bad? Divorce lawyers are no better. Here is how they work: A Man and Woman want to settle their divorce themselves and remain friends but here comes a friend that tells the Man or the Woman, whoa whoa, You better use my lawyer friend to make sure You are getting all You deserve. So now the other Person has to get a lawyer and now instead of no lawyer the couple is paying for two lawyers. The wife doesn’t want the house but the Husband loves the house, guess what the wife’s lawyer does first? He demands that the the Husband vacate the marital home and says the wife should have ownership of it. So now the Husband is cussing mad and His lawyer then ask for things that are important to the wife to go to His client, the Husband. Now each Person has spent 10,000 dollars for their lawyers and nothing is even close to being settled. The couple agreed to joint custody of the Children before lawyers got involved but the Wife’s lawyer said no, You can get primary custody and force Your hubby to pay a ton of Child support even though the wife never wanted that. So this goes on and on and the two lawyers are laughing over drinks three times a week with the money they are earning on this case. Each week one lawyer demands something He knows is not going to be accepted, this is the game they play.  So this goes on a year and finally You have no more money for the lawyers and guess what? The lawyer now says You should probably just compromise and try to get along.  And after spending 100,000 dollars, guess what happens? The exact settlement that the couple agreed on before the lawyers got involved is the end result. Now the couple hates each other and they are out 100,000 dollars. The lawyers are playing golf and dreaming of their next cases.

If You are going to divorce Your spouse it is in your best interest to work out a financial settlement together. If You are so mad You cannot do that, wait until You can. A starting point is to list all assets that are legally jointly owned, like a business, the home, the cars, stocks, cash, etc.. Each Person should put the net value on each asset to see how far apart You are. Do not say what You want and what He/She wants, first agree on the net value (subtract any debt from appraised value). Once You agree on value You are very close to settling Your divorce. The next step is then saying what You would like to have, it might be easier than You think. Maybe You want the house even though it has only 10,000 net value but Your spouse would rather down size and not have a mortgage. Maybe You have a collection of rare coins and You both want to keep it so You go to a coin shop to get each piece appraised and split them. If one Person wants to keep more than half the value then that Person could pay the spouse a cash amount over a certain time at a agreed interest rate. These are things that a lawyer can do for You and charge You a fortune dragging it out, why not do it Yourself? You can also go to a mediator for a fraction of the money a lawyer will charge You. Once You have it all agreed on, ANY family lawyer can draw it up legally for both parties to sign for a few hundred dollars not a few hundred thousand.

Just like any industry the law industry is full of scum that are only interested in making money. The ones that are doing everything by the law are legally taking Your money, Yes but You need to know all the expenses before You hire Your lawyer regardless what You need the lawyer for. Every lawyer is negotiable no matter what area of the law, never just accept their terms. You can put a limit on billing hours, change the percentage they they will take and if they do not accept interview the next lawyer until You get what You want.  Every new lawyer that goes to a big firm is under huge pressure to bill a certain number of hours so they have no choice but to take advantage of You. Many lawyers are fired for not billing enough hours so it is either them or You and they will pick them.

Most lawyers follow the law to the strictest detail so it is almost impossible to get credit for billing hours after the fact, You must understand it all upfront and put limits on it.