It may come as no surprise that lawyers can at times be dishonest. Lawyer jokes, politicians, and our justice system all reinforce and perpetuate this perception. That overbilling is rampant in the legal profession may be slightly more surprising. In point of fact, the padding of legal bills is so common that the American Lawyer published an article recently on the eight ways law firms overbill.
This culture of abuse prevalent at some law firms is a violation of client trust and further erodes society’s respect for attorneys. The broader problem here is a legal system that enriches attorneys at the expense of clients.
If you are involved in a lawsuit, then there are some remedies for you. First and foremost, choose an attorney that you can trust. Avoid the yellow pages and stick to referrals to attorneys with proven records. If the lawsuit requires the resources of a lawfirm, make sure that you do your research on the reputation of the firm and the partner that will be handling your matter.
Before you sign on the dotted line and allow an attorney to represent you or your company, make sure that you have laid down the proper ground rules for the engagement. This is usually done with a retainer agreement or engagement agreement as they are typically called. Here, you will delineate what exactly you are willing to pay for, so you are not surprised down the road with outrageous legal bills.
Finally, educate yourself on the many ways that attorneys overcharge for their services. There are some websites out there that offer comprehensive guides on this subject. The most widely respected is the website www.lowermyattorneysfees.com. This website offers resources — like sample engagement letters and sample budgets — that will reduce your legal costs by staggering amounts. Lowering your legal fees is one way to fight back against unscrupulous attorneys that routinely overcharge for legal services.