Many spouses seek my help only after incurring tens of thousands of dollars of attorneys’ fees. Many are amazed at the level of fees that they had occurred in such a small amount of time. Does it have to be this way? The down and dirty answer is: No. But it may help spouses to understand why fees have become such a big problem in divorce-land, and why most divorce lawyers contribute to the problem, without really knowing it.
To best understand the dynamic, you have to first realize that lawyers do very little legal work on any given day. A company named Clio (a lawyer’s service company) conducted a study and compiled an analysis about how lawyers spend their time. They found that only 29% of a lawyer’s work day is spent on billable time. Which, equates to a measly 2.3 hours of billable time in an eight-hour workday. These low billable hours mean that the typical lawyer does not bill enough to carry the weight of his or her own paycheck, or to pay for support staff, like paralegals and secretaries. So, to make up this shortfall, the lawyer deploys a business model to make up the difference, and you pay the price.
The old school time-tested business model involves having paralegals and associate lawyers that will also bill on your file. This is problematic for two reasons. First, most associates and paralegals haven’t conducted or attended a trial, so they don’t know where to stop on preparation. So, they over-prepare, which means you are over-paying for the same result. Second, to house support staff, you have to have a larger office than necessary, so in addition to covering a large payroll, a lawyer’s cost goes up for office rent. To pay for the increased costs, the lawyer adds staff, and the cycle continues until you file bankruptcy.
The system is designed to financially crush you, and most lawyers don’t know the why or how. They are just trying to financially survive like everyone else. And that’s how you get to the point where a law office is a hungry monster that only eats your money. How do you get away from this cash hungry monster in your divorce?
Well, that’s easy. Try to find a lawyer that operates like I do. One that has plenty of trial work under his or her belt, so they know what’s really required to prepare a file. Find a lawyer that has tossed aside the old business model that promotes and encourages large bulky offices and large staff. If you find yourself at an office where associates and paralegals are present – you’ll be paying for all that payroll and cost. The time has come where nimble lawyering wins, which is a victory for you.
What’s my secret to winning at this fee game? Well, here are the things that I have found work best for my clients (and for me):
1. My office is nearly virtual. I have a a real office, but I also have conference room privileges in other areas and cities. These other locations are pay-as-you-go and this saves on overhead, and I don’t have to bill clients to cover the cost.
2. My rockstar-paralegal is virtual. I don’t have to pay for a large office to have access to great support. I also have two remote secretaries that are free! (more on that in a future blog post).
3. I have separated my billing-receivables to a virtual assistant that does not get involved in the lawyering-part of a case. So the legal issues are handled independently from the collections side of the office. This allows clients to work out payment plans, without me knowing about it or getting involved. I can do my lawyering-magic without worrying about whether or not that client is in good payment standing.
4. My advertising in near zero. Some cost is required in today’s social media world, but I don’t use an outside company, which would cost a lot of money (and the client eventually pays for that), and
5. My files are essentially prepped for trial from day-one. I’m not giving this system away – but it works and it’s a system that I got years ago from a seasoned divorce lawyer in Chicago. That way, if the case doesn’t settle, my clients don’t have to pay a ton of money to prep their file for a trial.
These things, along with other tricks that I’ve learned over the years, is what separates those cases that cost spouses $10,000 or more, and my client’s that pay a fraction of that amount.
If you have any questions about my services or how I run my office, just reach out.
Paul D. Nordini
Phone: (480) 527-9000