Hiring a Lawyer: What Flat Fees and Hourly Fees Mean For Your Family

Ali Katz

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Trying to find the right lawyer to help with your estate planning can often feel like navigating uncharted waters. You want to find an attorney you like who will understand your family’s needs, but you also have to consider the cost of the attorney you’re hiring as well.  

Many attorneys will charge an hourly rate between $250-$450 per hour. Others will charge a flat fee of $2,000-$6,000 for a packaged service. Based on this, paying a few hundred dollars per hour might seem more manageable than paying thousands of dollars for a package, but it’s essential to understand what you’re getting when you choose an attorney who charges an hourly rate versus a flat fee.

In this guide, we'll explore why choosing a lawyer who charges flat fees can be a game-changer for your peace of mind and your wallet.

 

The Pitfalls of Hourly Billing

If watching your budget is something important to you, an attorney who bills hourly may give you the sense that you’ll have more control over how much you’re spending on your legal representation, but this often backfires in more ways than one. 

First, when hiring an attorney who bills by the hour, you’ll likely find yourself hesitant to contact your attorney with questions or additional pieces of information because you don’t want to accrue extra costs. This creates a barrier to open communication with your lawyer and getting the legal support truly truly need. 

Secondly, you might not think that a quick phone call to your lawyer here and an email to them there would add up too much as far as fees, but hourly billing can lead to surprise costs that quickly add up to substantial bills. This makes it challenging to budget for legal services effectively and can leave you feeling stressed about your legal bills instead of focusing on the reason that brought you to the lawyer in the first place.

Complex cases or unforeseen complications can inflate your bill even more by prolonging the time your lawyer is needed to complete the work. Even without a complex case, hourly billing may inadvertently skew your lawyer's incentives. After all, a longer legal process means more billable hours for them.

 

The Advantages of Flat Fees

Choosing a lawyer who charges flat fees flips the script, offering a straightforward and transparent approach to legal billing. With flat fees, you know exactly what you'll pay from the outset so there are no surprises. This transparency eliminates the stress of unexpected costs and allows you to plan for legal expenses more effectively.

Flat fees also give you and your lawyer room to speak freely about your needs without feeling like you need to watch the clock. This means you can ask questions and make changes as the process moves along. This is especially true for an attorney who charges a reasonable fee for their services – and by reasonable I don’t mean the lowest fee.

When an attorney charges a reasonable fee for their services, (think $2,000 - $6,000 depending on the package) you know you’re getting a comprehensive package, not just one or two documents that won’t actually work for you and your family the way you need them too.

When your attorney charges a fair fee for a comprehensive package that includes all the pieces of an effective estate plan, they’ll feel motivated to work efficiently without the need to rush through the process. It simply isn’t possible for a lawyer to create a full, comprehensive estate plan and make a living if they’re only charging $500-$1,000 per plan, which means the plan they’re selling isn’t comprehensive enough to work or they’re rushing the process to get more clients through the door.

Keeping The Focus On You

As a dedicated Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we specialize in providing comprehensive estate planning with a focus on our client relationships. For us, that means charging a reasonable flat fee for a comprehensive estate plan where we can take the time to get to know your family and your needs on an intimate level, because we know that getting to know your family is the first step to creating a plan that will serve you and your loved ones in the best way possible.

Plus, we understand that planning for death and incapacity can be a lot to think about, and we want to give you the mental space to consider your estate planning options without the anxiety or distraction of a bill that changes every month. We want our time spent together to be entirely focused on you and your needs.