At Law School I had a friend who, when out at pubs and clubs, would tell new people she met that she worked for the local Council, because even as Law Students, we experienced this as a typical scenario, “So, what do you do…..?”.
Upon answering ‘I’m a Lawyer’ the conversation invariably goes one of two ways, “Oh, maybe you can help me….”, or “So why are lawyers so expensive…?”
Leaving aside the first response (because that is a whole other can of worms), let’s explore in detail the 5 Reasons Lawyers Are So Expensive…
1. Knowledge and Expertise – it’s a lifetime commitment…
Lawyers invest heavily in knowledge. They pay a premium for legal tertiary education, upon completion they must then undertake additional practical legal training. As part of their on-going professional obligations, lawyers MUST complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) education. This can be particularly expensive for sole practitioners who not only need to pay private third-party providers but do not earn an income while they complete it.
And their commitment to knowledge doesn’t stop there. Lawyers must be aware of every change in the law affecting their clients and every major case before the courts and its outcome. Unlike some other professions failure to keep up to date could have very real and very significant negative impacts for their clients.
2. Peace of Mind – a lot happens beneath the surface that clients don’t see…
That commitment to knowledge is a commitment to knowing everything that you might need to know. You can be assured that when you walk into your lawyer’s office with whatever legal problem you might have, your lawyer can say to you “No problem. We got this”.
When you sign a retainer agreement with your lawyer, you are assigning your worries and problems to them – so that you can go home, spend some time with your family and sleep peacefully in the knowledge that your lawyer has in fact ‘got this’.
Meanwhile, your lawyer is:
- stressing about YOUR deadline
- completing YOUR paperwork
- dealing with YOUR uncomfortable phone calls; and
- negotiating on YOUR behalf.
There is lots of activity that happens below the surface and the sign of a great lawyer – the client doesn’t even know about it.
3. Experience – premium products often have premium price tags
Experience is a premium legal product. A lawyer who is extensively experienced can not only immediately identify your legal issues, but they can predict outcomes and negotiate their way through a myriad of disguised risks quickly and expertly. Which, in fact, can end up saving time and money down the track.
And in some cases, it might not be necessary to pay for the premium product, but in instances where it is essential there will, of course, be a price difference. You wouldn’t pay a qualified electrician to change a light bulb, but you also wouldn’t ask your (unqualified) uncle to re-wire your house. Like anything in life, the better the quality and service required, the more expensive the price tag.
4. Bespoke – it’s a custom designed service…
No two legal problems are the same, and therefore no two legal solutions are the same. Lawyers create custom-made solutions. You would not expect to pay the same price for an original piece of artwork as would expect to pay for a reproduction print.
Each legal case (…regardless of how similar they may seem) needs to be assessed on its merits – giving the client peace of mind that the lawyer is acting in their absolute best interests.
5. Costs and Overheads – there are many hidden costs to being a lawyer…
Like every other business owner, lawyers have costs and overheads. Office space, computers, furniture and equipment, internet, and other utilities, employee wages and superannuation, and even professional services, like accountants, because sometimes lawyers need advice too. All these costs go to create a law firm that provides the right environment for lawyers to do their best work.
Lawyering is a highly-regulated profession and compliance attracts additional overheads. Lawyers pay additional expenses that are unique to the profession, such as annual licensing fees and their associated renewal and administration costs and professional indemnity insurance, all so they can keep practicing and provide the best possible service to clients.
Something to keep in mind….
When your lawyer sends you an invoice, that invoice doesn’t just represent their time. Their invoice includes their commitment to knowing all the things they might need to know. It includes their carefully structured strategies, their problem-solving skills, and a custom-made solution. Mostly it provides peace of mind and a good night’s sleep. Yours, not theirs – they were probably up until 3am preparing documents on your behalf or constructing a strategy to help you win!
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