Even if they don't ask it, the question most people have when they are trying to hire a lawyer is why shouldn't I hire the cheapest one? Or even if they might not want to hire the cheapest one, they still wonder why they shouldn't make the decision among the lawyers they like based on price.
The question is a legitimate one. Most people don't know how to determine which lawyer is best so they rely on what they can judge, which is cost. Sometimes cost is a legitimate concern - if the lawyer you want to hire charges $10,000 and you can't come up with anywhere near that, the decision is made for you. Most of the time though there are other issues at play.
Are all lawyers the same?
The assumption made when asking this question is that all lawyers are basically the same. Frankly, when I first got out of law school I thought the same thing. However, I learned early on that wasn't the case. The first time it hit me was after arguing a case before the Federal Court of Appeals. It was a multi-defendant case with several lawyers - all of whom I thought were pretty good. After arguments, one of the lawyers commented that he would have never raised one of the issues I presented - which was the issue the court seemed to be most interested in. It seemed pretty basic to me, and I was more than a little suprised. The Court ended up agreeing with me, and reversed my client's conviction. That was an eye opening experience because I realized that if she had the lawyer who made the comment to me, she would not have won - and might still be in prison.
I've since had that same experience several times. More than once I've had a District Attorney or another lawyer comment that they would have never thought to raise a certain issue.
Everyone believes you get what you pay for - why should lawyers be any different?
You hire a lawyer to give you the best chance for success in a case - whatever success may mean in your situation. That's no different from decisions you make in other areas of your life - especially when it comes to your health. My wife passed away several years ago after a long battle with cancer. When she was first diagnosed, I wanted a cure. We liked the doctor we were with, but I wanted to make sure we left no stone uncovered. I asked around, and also did some research, and eventually found a doctor who was considered an expert in treatment; she was about to retire from seeing patients, and concentrate solely on research. I knew she would be current on all of the current treatment options, even those that might not yet be readily known to the average physician. We ended up seeing her, and she continued to monitor my wife's case and provide recommendations from time to time. She didn't have the cure, but I'm convinced her advice and guidance gave my wife several extra years of life.
In a criminal case your health is not at stake, but something equally as valuable is. Your freedom. When we sought out the doctor I wasn't worried about the cost - which I figured I would have to pay. I was going to come up with it.
How do lawyers determine fees?
So why do some lawyers charge more than others? There are generally a couple of reasons, and it's not a guess as to how much you can afford. The most important one is experience and knowldge. A lawyer with more experience is generally more valuable to you, and they are going to charge you more.
Another reason is demand. Good lawyers are in demand, and they can charge more. That's not entirely selfish. When a lawyer charges more they can afford to spend more time on your case, because they don't have to handle as many cases. Lawyers who charge low fees are generally handling a high volume of cases, which means they can't spend as much time on each case. Would you rather have a lawyer who has trouble remembering who you are, or one who only represents a limited number of people.
There are other things you should look for when hiring, but that's for another post. Make your decison on those other factors - not on cost. Your freedom is too valuable to put a price on it.
If you want to take advantage of our experience and knowledge give us a call
If you've spent any time on this site, you would probably guess that we aren't the cheapest lawyers around; and you would be right. We try to set fees based on the experience and knowldedge we bring to the table, which will hopefully translate into a beneft to you. If the future of you and your family is important, give us as call at 254-296-0020, or fill out the contact section on this page.