What your divorce lawyer’s hourly rate doesn’t tell you

Q: When does a 3-minute call from a divorce lawyer who charges $300 per hour cost MORE than the same call from a lawyer who charges $400/hr.?

A: When the $300/hr. lawyer charges in increments of 2/10 of an hour, and the $400/hr. lawyer charges in 1/10 increments.

Wait… WHAT?

The great majority of divorce lawyers charge by the hour, or portions (“increments”) thereof. Hourly rates depend on factors such as expertise, reputation, geographical location… and maybe how much they’re shelling out for their kids’ college educations.

Clients correctly consider hourly rates a key consideration in choosing a divorce lawyer. The problem is that hourly rates don’t tell the whole story.

Based solely on their hourly rates in the above example, you would expect “Attorney 300” to charge you $15.00 for that 3-minute call, and “Attorney 400” to charge $20.00.

But they won’t.

Why? Because neither of those lawyers charge for the actual minutes spent. Instead, “Attorney 400” charges in increments of 1/10 (.1) of an hour (6 minutes), and “Attorney 300” uses increments of 2/10 (.2) of an hour (12 minutes). And what makes incremental billing so expensive is that when lawyers bill in 6 or 12-minute increments, those increments are minimum charges. A lawyer using .1 increments charges a minimum of 6 minutes for anything she does on your case—even if it only takes 2 or 3 minutes. And a lawyer using .2 increments bills even more in extra fees—a minimum of 12 minutes!

While your heartbeat is receding from atrial fibrillation, remember that minimum increments impact only to tasks that take less than 6 minutes for .1 increment billers, and less than 12 minutes for .2 increment billers. Nevertheless, minimum charges add up. While they won’t make Attorney 400 cheaper than Attorney 300 over the course of a divorce, they substantially narrow the difference between Attorney 300 and a lawyer charging say, $350.00/hr., making Attorney 350 a more attractive option than would initially appear to be the case.

Read more about saving legal fees in divorce in Divorce, Simply Stated.

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