Most family law attorneys bill on an hourly basis. I’m not sure if you can find someone out there that will do a flat fee. I’m not aware personally of anyone that does flat fees. There might be someone out there. But most of the time, you’re going to be dealing with an hourly fee situation. You’re going to get a bill at the end of the month, that’s how many hours the attorney has spent on your case and then also whatever cost there are in your case, like filing fees.
Usually this works by putting money in a retainer. That retainer is put into a trust fund with your name on it, a trust account. At the end of the month, the attorney’s fees are billed and the money to pay those fees comes out of that trust account to pay those fees for that month. Then if you don’t have any money left in your trust account, you’ll get a call from the firm to ask you to replenish that retainer. That’s how it works.
But how are those hours used? Obviously you don’t want people to spend hours that aren’t necessary, right? You don’t want your attorney not to work on your case. The question is how are the hours best utilized on your case? I think the way to get the best understanding of that is to do a good strategy meeting with your attorney. In other words, have a meeting to help you understand what the legal strategy is, what are you doing, who’s going to be doing it, and if the attorney going to be working on this particular part of your strategy or if a paralegal can work on a particular part of your strategy. If it’s appropriate for the paralegal, you would want them to do it because their fees are probably less than half of what the attorney’s fees are and so it makes sense economically.
For instance, financial disclosures which are a big piece of any divorce case makes sense of the paralegal to work on that with you. You don’t need the attorney to work on gathering your documents, making sure you have all the appropriate documents. What’s being done, who’s working on it? If you’re going to be negotiating a settlement to your case, you want your attorney to be working on that.
What’s important? Designing the strategy, who’s going to do what, how complex is the case, what’s the best case scenario, what’s the worst case scenario and understanding how the hours relate to all of that. You may have a lot of hours upfront in your case but you know that because you understand the strategy. You may have a protection order, something you’re working on early in the case that requires a lot of attorney hours. You’d want those attorney hours to be spent if that’s the strategy to get a protection order.
I can’t tell you exactly because it depends on the case, but I think that being in full communication with your attorney at the beginning, designing the strategy, understanding when that strategy is changing so that you know when you’re going to have high attorney hours in a particular month or not is the best way to move forward in your case. For more information about filing for divorce, how divorce works, or any other family law matters in Colorado, call us at 303-329-3802.