Lawyers offer an important and highly specialized service, and the fees they charge reflect that. However, many people do not realize that attorneys are often flexible in the amount they bill. While a lawyer will probably not invite you to negotiate over their fee, there are areas where they will agree to change their billing structure.
The most common way that lawyers bill their clients is by an hourly rate. However, not all tasks that your lawyer will perform while working on your case are equal. Therefore, your lawyer may be willing to bill a different rate for different services. For example, your lawyer may bill you one rate for court time, and a lower rate for research done on your case.
Also, many attorneys are often willing to cap their fees. With a fee cap, your attorney will charge you an hourly rate up to an agreed upon limit. That way, you know up front the maximum that you will be responsible for.
Finally, one good negotiating technique is to ask your attorney to bill you at 6-minute instead of 15-minute intervals. This can save you quite a bit of money over the long run. For example, if your lawyer charges $100 per hour, a 5-minute phone call will cost you $10 if billed at 6-minute intervals. However, that same phone call will cost you $25 if your lawyer bills at 15-minute intervals. Over the course of a court case, this can add up to a significant amount of money.
It is important to fully understand a lawyer’s billing structure before you agree to hire that lawyer to represent you. While discussing fees is often unpleasant, spending a little bit of time doing this before hiring your lawyer can save you time and anxiety over the long haul.