So you and your spouse have decided to divorce. In addition to figuring out how to deal with the emotional impacts of this situation, there are many competing financial obligations. Usually the same amount of family income now has to support two different households. Then there are all the legal complexities: how to get divorced, does you spouse need alimony, what about child custody and child support? To make matters worse, you now have to worry about paying an attorney to help you achieve the best results.
Most family law attorneys, The Law Office of Kelli Y. Allen included, charge hourly. This is because family law cases are extremely unpredictable. Many variables impact the amount of time a case will take, so it is extremely difficult to determine, up front, how much a case will cost. When dealing with hourly billing for family law cases, there are several things you as the client can do to minimize costs without sacrificing the quality of representation.
1. Don't look for the lowest hourly rate available in the city. An attorney who is extremely knowledgeable and efficient who charges $250 per hour can likely handle your case for less and achieve a better result than a $200 per hour attorney without highly-detailed, well-organized processes and a well-trained staff.
2. Provide documents in an organized fashion. Separate documents by type. Within each set of documents (ex. copies of bank statements), separate by account and organize by date. Use binder clips to secure each set of documents. There is no need to pay an attorney, paralegal, or legal assistant to perform these tasks. However, if you choose to provide documents that are all jumbled, disorganized, and unlabeled, don't be surprised by the number of billable hours this will add to your case.
3. Choose your battles. Do you really want to spend $500 in legal fees arguing about whether you or your spouse will get the dining room table or the washing machine? If you do, then fine. Just make sure what you are arguing about with your spouse is truly worth the time (money) spent.
4. Embrace the use of support staff. Most well-established law firms have a team of support staff including paralegals, legal assistants, and administrative assistants who are trained to work on various aspects of certain types of cases. This is in the client's best interests because hourly billing rates for support staff are generally much lower than that of the attorneys. Other than the true "legal" aspects of your case such as case analysis, strategy, court representation, and explaining how the law applies to the facts of your case, other law firm employees are usually quite qualified to assist you. Clients who insist upon having every aspect handled by an attorney will pay much higher fees than those who properly utilize the entire legal team.
The Law Office of Kelli Y. Allen works with clients to help manage legal fee stress in numerous ways. We do not require a large retainer to begin the case. We also offer access to numerous third-party financing platforms that provide personal loans for legal fees. For clients who are concerned about accruing a large amount of legal fees in a short amount of time, we offer the option of allowing clients to set a monthly "cap" whereby we set a definite limit and before the monthly bill reaches the pre-set limit the client is contacted before additional expenses are incurred.
Whether you are dealing with us at KYA Law or any other law firm, always discuss any financial concerns at your initial consultation so that billing issues do not create an unexpected and unpleasant issue during your case.