Is the Legal Meter Ever NOT On?

Posted on January 13, 2013 in Planning & Advisors

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“The meter is always running,” is a perennial complaint of small business owners when dealing with their attorneys. And yet, if our attorneys aren’t properly informed about what we’re doing, they can’t give us the appropriate advice. The latest plaint I’ve heard is: “My lawyer charges me so much money whenever I call him. I try to refrain from calling him but sometimes its important to give him updates. I pay all my bills to him. Are there lawyers that exist that don’t charge you like this for phone time? I feel taken advantage of…” As business clients, there are a few things to keep in mind.

This is a business relationship. Your attorney sells his or her expertise, often measured in terms of the time spent. Would you expect to regularly give of your own expertise without compensation? Would that be fair to you?

  • As I mentioned in my post, “Why Can’t My Attorney Be My Friend? think carefully about why you are calling the attorney. Are you looking for advice, or do you want to vent and get general business advice? If the latter, there may be more appropriate professionals whose time is not as costly.
  • Many things can be negotiated with an attorney. I don’t know what hourly rate you are paying, but you could ask for a reduced rate (or no charge) for things like listening to voice mail messages, particularly if the attorney is going to call you back any way to find out more about the situation. Or, if the purpose of your call is just a status update (and not an in-depth exploration of your attorney’s expertise), a reduced rate might be appropriate.
  • If this particular attorney’s fees are breaking your bank, find another attorney whose fee structure fits better within your budget. After all, you wouldn’t lease a Rolls Royce if you could only afford a Kia. There’s no shame in making the price part of the reason you are choosing to work with someone.

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