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There is Pressure on Attorneys to Overcharge

Updated: Apr 12

It is common for family law attorneys to over-bill their clients. Some might wonder why you need to cheat when you are charging $350 and hour (or more).

If an attorney bills only 20 hours a week for fifty weeks, he or she would make their firm $400,000. A new attorney, you are paid less than $100,000. The attorney has made the boss $300,000. With more experience, they will be able to bill more than twenty hours a week and make the firm more money.

This is not how the system works:

1. Family law attorneys are afraid they will be fired if they do not bill enough hours. This is because they likely will be fired if they do not bill enough. Family law attracts attorneys who went to the lowest ranked law schools. They have few options other than family law. There are also a lot of attorneys out there looking for work. Family law is an easy area of practice which any attorney can pick up quickly. So the bottom line is that you can be replaced easily.

2. Senior partners are greedy. I say billing twenty hours a week makes the firm $300,000. Senior partners see it as losing hundreds of thousands of dollars - the money you could have made if you billed thirty-five to forty hours a week instead.

3. You cannot get enough hours if you are ethical. There are plenty of attorneys who over-bill to get their hours they need. If you are ethical and try not to over-bill, you will have billed less than your unethical co-workers. There is generally not enough work for you to get forty hours a week if you do not over-bill. The ethical attorney will soon be looking for a new job.

4. Attorneys are expected to learn on the job. Few attorneys will help other attorneys. No one helped them. Helping another attorney is working for free. You can't bill for your time helping someone else. The firm won't pay you to train people, why should you do it for free? The lack of training to learn to do the job well and bill ethically pushes people to take the easy way out - over-bill unsuspecting clients.

5. There are firms that do not regularly over-bill. There must be. But I have never seen a bill from a family law attorney that didn't have excessive charges.

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