Even the Big Players Complain About Legal Bills

Posted on December 30, 2011 in Planning & Advisors

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Everyone has a favorite “whipping boy,” and for entrepreneurs, lawyers and legal fees often fill that role.  Sigh.

Well, entrepreneurs, you’re not alone.Seems a study of in-house and general counsel of major corporations in the UK have a similar gripe–in particular, that the bills are padded with junior associate time.There are ways to handle the legal fee situation without foregoing legal help altogether.

  • Ask detailed questions about billing structure before you start.You have every right to ask, and you certainly don’t want to be surprised.Who will actually be doing the work on your matters?What is their billing rate?Are you charged for inter-office communications, that is, two attorneys talking to each other about your situation?

  • Get clear before you call.While an attorney can (and should!) help assuage your fears and anxiety, attorneys are like many other consultants:they often sell their expertise in time-based increments. And have a little sympathy; we can only (legitimately) sell the same 24 hours.Every hour an attorney spends listening to the vengeful fantasies of a wronged client is an hour that can’t be spent on someone else’s matter.So if you have a question, ask it; if you want to chew the fat and be “chummy,” try to find another alternative–take your lawyer out to dinner or drinks, or save the therapy hour for your friends.

  • Set a budget.Unquestionably, you don’t want to drown in legal fees, but it’s not reasonable to expect to get everything for free.  You expect to be paid for your products and services, yes?  And to be paid a fair amount (like, not 50 cents on the dollar just because someone doesn’t like what you charge)?Discuss in advance what you can reasonably expect to pay for the services and how you can help keep costs down.

  • Raise billing questions immediately.If there is anything you see on the bill that you don’t understand, ask about it.There’s no shame in doing so.  My mother had a saying (about, for example, the diamond necklaces that would sparkle in Tiffany showcases): “If you have to ask [the price], you can’t afford it.”  Not only do I disagree totally, but in the business world, that’s a senseless attitude. You want to know that you’re getting value for your money.And people do make mistakes. For the same reason, you should check your bank and credit card statements carefully every month.

You’re an entrepreneur–be fearless!  Don’t let the prospect of attorneys and their possible fees (you could be pleasantly surprised) deter you from seeing the help you need.  For more tips and tools, check out our program, “How to Choose and Use Attorneys.” 

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