Last year, I wrote about why divorce is so expensive and explained how, in many cases, it’s the spouses who drive up the price. This time around, I wanted to look at how sometimes it’s the lawyers who add to the expense.
Divorce lawyers who have a traditional practice generally charge a retainer up front and bill against it for each hour they work on the case. Retainers for a divorce can range from $2500 to $5,000+, and the average hourly rate for a lawyer in Colorado is about $250 an hour. If the retainer runs out, the lawyer asks for more money. What the final cost will be is often difficult to nail down.
For family lawyers who earn a living this way, maximizing the time it takes to do something means maximizing income. However, taking as much time as possible is not always in the client’s best interest. Particularly with divorces, prolonging or exacerbating the process not only makes divorces more expensive, but it can wreak havoc on the client’s well-being.
In my view, divorce lawyers shouldn’t be focused on billing time; they should be focused on the client and what he or she needs. Lawyers should be effective problem solvers, not litigious bill generators. For family lawyers like me who are client-focused, we’ve built our practices to help clients affordably get the legal help they need.
Divorce lawyers who offer affordable, fixed-fee representation or unbundled legal help for divorces keep divorce costs low by focusing on the most important issues. This type of affordable family law practice also encourages the lawyer to work efficiently and quickly to solve the client’s problems. If spouses can be civil and lawyers can work efficiently, divorces can be far less expensive than they are now.
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Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.