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Hiring a Cheap Lawyer: Will You Come out Ahead?

Say you wanted to buy a used car and have $1,000 to spend. Two of them are on the lot: One costs $1,000 but appears to be in good shape and starts up smoothly. It’s not a glamorous luxury vehicle, but you’re confident it will “get you there.” The other car costs just $500 – but you can already see the rust and dents, and the engine makes a strange noise when you start it up.

Cheap AttorneyIs there any doubt about which car provides the best value for the money? Would you rather pay a little more now, or a lot more later?

The same question applies when you are looking for legal representation. Especially if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, the temptation to hire the lowest-cost attorney may be a strong one. But the “cheap” lawyer isn’t always your best bet and can, in fact, lead you down a path of trouble later on.

Identifying the Cheap Lawyer

A law firm may try to convince you through a flashy website or TV ad – you’ll need to investigate carefully to ensure you’ll get the service you need.

What Are Some Characteristics of a Cheap Lawyer?

  • They Play up Their Cheapness – Don’t be swayed by billboards, web ads or other advertising that promises nothing else but cheap representation. You may be sacrificing cost for quality of work.
  • They Skimp on the Paperwork – You want a contract that clearly spells out the services your attorney will provide on your behalf. A cheap lawyer may not have the skills or interest in drawing up such a contract.
  • They Send Random Associates – The principal of the cheap law firm is not always the one who will represent you. One attorney related the story of a man who arrived in court not even knowing the name of the cheap lawyer sent in that day!
  • They Say “You Don’t Pay Unless We Win.” – Many personal injury lawyers advertise this way, but they’re often cheap contingency lawyers who are not telling you the entire truth. The costs involved in a case include several fees that might not apply to the “when we win” scenario. You could end up paying hundreds or thousands in court costs, even if you lose.

Identifying the Right Lawyer

Hiring a cheap lawyer is a huge risk, but you need not worry that you must hire the most expensive lawyer either. An established local law firm that has proven successes in the kind of help you need is your best bet.

You’ll want to hire a firm that demonstrates:

  • Background – Look for a lawyer who has some years of experience in the field.
  • Reputation – Today’s digital environment makes it pretty easy to check up on the reputation of a lawyer or legal firm. However, remember that online reviews, both good and bad, may be created by people who have a particular agenda. Follow up on the online reviews by seeking real-world, personal referrals.
  • Availability – You don’t want to be just another number with your law firm. You should be able to get in touch with a real person during standard business hours – if you constantly find yourself tied to their voicemail, think carefully about whether this is the firm for you.
  • Affordability – As opposed to just being “cheap,” the affordable attorney will work with you to determine the best course of action to take according to the money you have to spend.
  • A Good Attitude – The right lawyer is enthusiastic to take your case, but expresses the possible outcomes realistically. Unless you have a rock-solid case, there’s always the chance you will be convicted. However, you should feel comfortable sharing all relevant information with your lawyer.

Don’t Get “Cheaped Out” of Good Representation

A writer for Forbes related her experience hiring a cheap lawyer for her company, and says she wouldn’t do it again. “The only regrets I have ever had when it came to legal bills and lawyers,” she wrote, “was either not spending enough money to hire the good ones, or the times I thought I was saving money by hiring the cheap ones.” She concluded that “nothing will be more expensive … than hiring cheap lawyers, and nothing will be more painful than hiring the wrong ones.”

 *Image courtesy of Dustin Moore

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