Let’s face it: Lawyers have a bad rep. You mention “attorney” and you can almost see the pain, frustration, and anger on people’s faces. People tend to associate lawyers with something bad happening, and that’s why they would rather avoid them like the plague.
However, smart people realize that the advice of a lawyer is invaluable. We make decisions that affect our lives and businesses, and having the advice of an attorney can make the decision-making process easier. At the very least, we’ll make more informed choices. So, if we know it’s good to use them, why do people shy away from them? Here are five reasons:
- They Cost Too Much. According to the Laffey Matrix, the average hourly cost for an attorney in the Washington, D.C. area ranges from $305 (1-3 years experience) to $734 (20+ years experience). That’s daunting for most of us. How many hours would the average person have to work in order to afford one hour of quality consultation? As business owners, how much of your goods and/or services would you have to sell in order to get quality legal advice? For most of us, the answer is, ‘the cost is too high.’
- They’re Only Interested in Billing. This relates to the hourly cost, but is still a separate issue. Even if a client can afford the hourly rate, they are upset if they feel the attorney is doing everything they can to pad the expense report. Can you imagine wondering if the follow-up call you received came from a genuine concern for you or was simply a method to increase the billable hours charged to your account?! That uncertainty breeds mistrust, and makes every action taken by an attorney suspect.
- They Favor the Wealthy. Since we’re on the subject of money, this idea comes into play. Many feel attorneys favor those with money, since wealthy people can afford to pay the fees attorneys charge. If you don’t have the cash upfront, attorneys must work out a payment arrangement, reject you as a client, or in some cases do the work pro bono. Trust me, they don’t like any of those options, and with good reason. Payment arrangements are iffy at best, rejecting a client does no one any good, and pro bono doesn’t help an attorney pay his bills.
- They’re All Shysters and Don’t Get Anything Done. Basically, the quality of service provided comes into question. If you’re paying rates as indicated above, you want the best of the best! However, the general feeling is that many attorneys charge a lot and deliver little. That’s not a good feeling.
- Lawyers are Uncaring and Unresponsive. Attorneys by necessity are analytical and dispassionate in examining the particulars of a case. Because of that, some may think they lack compassion towards people. Additionally, when a client is emotional and upset, they want comfort. If an attorney doesn’t respond in what the client feels is a timely manner or with a sympathetic ear, the client may feel ignored or misunderstood. This creates an adversarial atmosphere, and might lead to the termination of their professional relationship.
So, with all the “bad blood” between attorneys and potential clients, why should you use them anyway? For the following reasons:
- There’s a Cost to NOT Using Them. Let’s face it, attorneys are probably involved in most business transactions behind the scenes somewhere. The problem is you didn’t hire them in most cases. So, if the other guy used an attorney to draft a contract or a letter on his behalf, doesn’t it make sense to have your attorney review things and let you know if it’s in your best interests to move forward, slow down, or shut it down all together? Granted, the high hourly cost may seem high, but the cost of not using an attorney is often higher. We’re only as good as the decisions we make, and having rights that we don’t know about is as good as not having those rights in the first place. Attorneys know what the law says, how the law works, and can help you navigate the legal system to your advantage. That type of help is invaluable.
- They Put Their Clients Interests First and Care About Them. Whatever you may believe about an attorney, most will readily agree that good attorneys are like a pit bull with a bone; once they lock their jaws on a matter, they won’t let go. That’s bad if you’re the bone, but good if you’re the one that let the dogs out. A good attorney can’t afford being sympathetic since sympathy will prevent them from clearly analyzing your legal situation. However, being empathetic, relating to what you feel and the stress it brings is very possible. By their manner they help to bring you peace of mind, even while giving you sound legal counsel. Unfortunately, you might not want to hear what they have to say. They aren’t magicians and can’t make every situation disappear or eliminate all potentially negative consequences. However, empathy enables a good lawyer to communicate those facts in a way you find easy to handle.
- They Know Their Stuff. Lawyers, especially experienced attorneys, have already dealt with most of the situations you face, and know how to get the best outcome. If they have over a decade of experience under their belt, then you’re not the guinea pig. They’ve honed their barristerial (Nice word, eh? I had to throw at least one in!) chops to near perfection, and now you get the refined product, not the diamond-in-the-rough. So, you don’t have to worry about a shyster, nor someone who is running up the clock through greed or inexperience. If they’ve stood the test of time, chances are they’re good. Besides, you can always check their rating on Martindale-Hubbel to see how they stack up against the rest of their profession.
Here’s some really good news: You can have access to top-rated (yes, by Martindale-Hubbel) attorneys available to answer all of your business legal questions, review contracts and documents, write letters and/or make phone calls on your behalf, and help with collection issues. In addition, you can tap into consultants who can help you in areas of taxes, human resource, sales, marketing, technology, and any other area affecting your business. Best of all, you won’t pay the hourly rates listed above. You get all of this and so much more for a flat monthly fee of $2.50 per day or less. Sure, that sounds impossible. But since my business partners and I do this every day, we know it’s real.
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