Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Can't I Afford a Lawyer?

When people think about going to see a lawyer, especially those who have had no need or occasion to do so before, they may think of a law office such as seen in Hollywood.  Marble entryways, tall towers, elegant receptions.  For many lawyers in this country, that is indeed how they surround themselves.  These tall tower lawyers come at steep prices, for you not only have to pay for their time but also their overhead.  Quite often these firms will seek a large retainer to even begin to work on your matter.  The next step down are the mid-sized firm lawyers.  These are usually elegantly decorated, well staffed, and found in office complexes that spring up around Courthouses from sea to shining sea.  Their overhead being somewhat less, their rates become more affordable, but still, for the vast majority of the people in this country they are outside of the reach of the masses.  

Unfortunately, the rates of the prior two groups of attorneys don't seem to go down much for the remainder of the lawyers out there.  The solo-practitioner and the small firm attorney, while vastly cheaper than the tall tower firms and the mid sized firms, are still out of reach or outside of economic rationality.  Let me put it another way.  Let's say a potential client comes to see a lawyer.  The PC has been sued for $2000.00.  They may have a valid defense, but that doesn't really matter if it costs upwards of $1000 to defend it.  The client may be better served by simply offering that money to the creditor as a settlement.  

Why must it cost so much to represent this person?  Well, a few reasons.  If a lawyer files an answer for a defendant, most courts will say that lawyer has "entered his appearance."  This means the court will expect the lawyer to be there in the event of a trial, for motions, status conferences, etc.  All of these things take time that the lawyer could be spending writing blogs, drinking coffee, or even representing other clients.