Whether you win or lose a case, expect huge legal bills. America is one of a few countries where a successful defendant pays his own legal fees and costs. England, and most other countries whose legal systems are similar to our own, has the loser pay the victor’s legal fees. In America, each party pays its own fees and costs, unless a contract or special statute says otherwise. You can ‘win’ your lawsuit and still owe thousands or even millions in legal fees and costs. This is no victory! And legal fees are skyrocketing. Lawyer overbilling is alarmingly rampant. You can try to keep your assets safe from your adversary yet lose a big slice of your wealth to your own lawyer. You must limit your legal costs before you do battle or you’ll lose the war even if you win in court.
Avoid big name lawyers. Every community has a lawyer or two reputed to be the best hired guns in town. But few attorneys with golden reputations are worth their excessively steep fees, particularly when a junior associate will handle much of your case. Hire an attorney experienced with your type case, a lawyer who’ll respect your need for an economical, fast, and relatively painless resolution. Also shorten the battle. Lawyers can needlessly prolong any case. Endless depositions and court appearances are tactics that only generate horrendous legal bills. You seldom get a corresponding benefit. Watch your lawyer’s clock. You largely control your legal costs if you control your demands on your attorney. Still, lawyers pad their bills, churn needless work and mount billable hours. Non-lawyers can’t easily determine what fees are reasonable. If you’re in doubt, let an impartial lawyer review the legal services and the fee. The opinion should come from someone who can objectively assess the services and fees without a stake in what you’ll do with that advice. Finally, talk honestly with your lawyer if you feel overcharged. If you still are unsatisfied, arbitrate the fee through the state bar fee arbitration committee.