Several years ago, Right Lawyers, divorce lawyers from Las Vegas Nevada, changed from the hourly model to the fixed fee model. They share with us some of the reasons that both attorneys and clients should use the fixed fee divorce model.
You Can Budget for Attorney Fees
With a fixed fee (aka flat fee), you know exactly how much your divorce is going to cost. There will never be that sinking feeling of seeing the attorney bill in the mail at the end of the month. And, you don't have to make that awkward phone call asking why you were charged $115 for an email that you don't remember getting.
You Reward Results, Instead of Hours Worked
If you pay by the hour, where is the incentive to get things done quickly? If your attorney spends an extra hour or two on something, you pay them more. When you pay your divorce lawyer in a flat fee system, you reward results.
Your Interests Align with the Attorney's
With a flat fee system, you don't pay your attorney until the work is complete. Then it is in your divorce attorney's best interest to get your divorce finished quickly. Your attorney will make the same amount of money whether the case gets settled in the matter of weeks or drags on for months. They might as well get it finished quickly so they can help the next person. Both you and your attorney benefit from focusing on the same goals, a quick and straightforward case.
Time Becomes Value-Based, Not Money-Based
You've heard the saying, "time is money." An attorney with flat fees has to turn value into money, instead of their time. A flat fee needs to be justified in expertise and value to you. You pay for expertise and results. What you don't pay for is hours logged at a desk.
You Can Ask All Those 'What If' Questions
Most people filing for divorce will spend at least one (if not many) sleepless nights wondering about the "what ifs" of their case. A good percentage of those people will get to the point where they compose an email with their questions to their divorce lawyer. With a flat fee attorney, there is no extra charge for those questions. There aren't extra hours to log typing out emails. It's all part of the package. You can get answers without paying extra for them. With hourly attorneys, on the other hand, you pay for every minute your divorce lawyer spends typing out a reply to your email. If they happen type slowly, they just get more of your money.
You Save Money, Most of the Time
Most people turn to divorce attorneys when they can't agree with their soon to be ex-spouse. If your finances were simple, you might not need a divorce attorney. If you could agree on how to divide everything, you wouldn't need a divorce attorney. Some of the biggest challenges come from child custody disputes. When parents can't agree, that can drag out cases. People turn to divorce attorneys when the situation becomes confusing or challenging. The attorney helps you sort out the issues. With a flat fee, you are paying for the expertise. With hourly, you run the risk of someone learning on your dime.
Less Likely to Find Yourself in a Billing Dispute
Attorneys go to great lengths to avoid surprises, but they can still happen. For hourly attorneys, those surprises appear as surprisingly high invoices at the end of the month. If there is a problem in your case, it could put you in a billing dispute for work you don't remember authorizing. Or worse, work that seems wholly unnecessary.Fixed fees let you know what you pay up front. There aren't surprises. It's one less thing to have to worry about. Because fighting your attorney at the same time that you're fighting your spouse is just too much.
Encourages Your Attorney to Plan Ahead
Fixed fee attorneys need to stay organized. They need a plan (at the beginning of the divorce process) for every step along the way. That way your attorney can take the most efficient path to a speedy divorce. There is no financial incentive for an hourly attorney to plan ahead to maximize efficiency. Fixed fee attorneys find that if they plan out each step in detail then execute their plan, things move along quickly. You can get through this and start the next chapter in your life.
Encourages Your Attorney to Keep the Ball Rolling
We believe that the vast majority of people take their professional responsibilities seriously. It does help to have incentives. With a flat rate divorce lawyer, their pay structure depends on their ability to focus on the next thing that will push the case forward. Spending time on something that doesn't matter, like looking into an obscure issue that won't make any difference, does not drive the case forward. So they must be focused and always look to work on something that makes a difference.
When You May Not Want a Fixed Fee Attorney (or Any Attorney)
There are a few circumstances where you may be better off with an hourly attorney, or any attorney at all. If you meet some of the following criteria, it may better to skip a divorce lawyer. Few to no assets, Little to no debt, filing an uncontested divorce (aka joint petition), no children, no need for alimony.