There’s no doubt about it. Attorneys fees are expensive.
Most consumers monitor expenses. And most consumers have never spent any significant money on attorneys fees. The hourly rate for attorneys is expensive – it is typically several hundred dollars per hour.
It’s not so different for a dentist. If a dentist charged $300 per hour, and if that dentist saw a patient for 20 minutes, then that patient’s bill would be $100, which most consumers could afford.
But if that same patient saw a dentist for two hours, the fee would be $600. And if that patient saw the dentist for a full day, then the bill might be something like $2,500.
I once asked a dental office employee what the fee would be if a patient saw a dentist exclusively for a full week – or for a full month. The math is simple. A full week would be something like ten to fifteen thousand dollars. A full month would be something like forty to fifty thousand dollars. That’s a tough bill for most consumers to pay.
But few legal matters can be done in 20 minutes. A complex legal matter can require days, weeks, or months of time. An initial consultation can often be done in an hour. But $350 an hour just sounds like a lot – and it is. As a result, some consumers just can’t bring themselves to pay that kind of a fee, and they therefore forego seeking professional legal advice with respect to their legal matters. State and Federal laws don’t allow consumers to prescribe for themselves the kinds of medication that a dentist or doctor might prescribe. But the law allows homeowners and other individuals to make their own legal decisions and to represent themselves in court (The rule is different for corporations. Corporations and LLC’s can’t represent themselves in court. They must be represented by an attorney).
Does all of this make a difference? It can. The most financially significant transaction most homeowners ever make is the purchase or sale of their home. Consumers understand how to save money – if a product is too expensive, then they don’t (or shouldn’t) buy it. If they can’t afford a product and still meet their other obligations, then they don’t (or shouldn’t) buy it. If they can buy a product at a store for one price, but at a different store for a lesser price, then through comparison shopping they can save money by purchasing the same product for a lesser price.
But these types of cost saving measures, which are often intuitive, sometimes break down when it comes to legal matters. Many consumers seem to think that professionals are interchangeable, like buying a set of dishes or some kind of name-brand product. That’s not always the case with the professionals. The temperament, skills, experience and expertise of a professional can make a significant difference on the nature, quality, and effectiveness of the services rendered and the results achieved. Most consumers intuitively sense this with respect to medicine. Most consumers wouldn’t consult a brain surgeon about a knee problem. But the same holds true for legal matters – a personal injury attorney may not be the most efficient source of legal advice on securities or corporate issues. And a short amount of time with a more highly qualified or specialized professional may actually be less expensive in the long run than more time with a less-specialized and less expensive professional.