.Attorneys are expensive: their fees feel like somewhere between a fancy dinner for 12 to a down-
payment on house or more. Why? Why does a “glorified” English degree (or as my husband says, an
“applied journalism degree”) charge so much? Well, like most things that don’t seem like they should be
complex, it’s complicated.
Costs to Practice Law. Like any business, law practices have operating costs such as staffing, process
management, advertising, and client care. However, law offices have additional costs unique to law.
Attorneys must carry very expensive malpractice insurance and pay to retain their license. Attorneys
cannot miss case-determinative statutory deadlines and must have special processes to make sure client
court filings are done on time and properly. Attorneys must also pay for continuing education to stay
relevant in their practice and, especially in rural locations, take extra time to travel to resources and
continuing education provided by the industry.
Legal Fees v. Court Fees. When you receive a bill from an attorney, it may include two categories of
charges: legal fees and court fees. Legal fees are the fees the attorney charges for working on your case
including researching and applying the law to your issue, preparing to advocate for you in court, actually
advocating for you in court, writing documents, negotiating with the other party, preparing documents,
and filing documents with the appropriate authorities, among other requirements to competently
Court fees are fees required by the government to file a document with the court or record the
document. These fees can only be changed by the government. However, there are different fees for
different types of cases. For example, probating a will requires a different price to file than petitioning
for a divorce.
Lastly, at the end of a criminal case, the court can require the defendant pay restitution to the victim, a
fine, and possibly probate costs. The best way to avoid this additional cost is to do your best to follow
the law and hire a defense attorney.
Value to the Client. Attorneys and the legal system enter people’s lives at decisive moments where the
wrong step could affect the rest of their life, their livelihood, or the ones they love the most. Attorneys
are paid to shoulder this stress and complexity of the legal system for their clients. This way, clients can
continue their lives in the most normal way possible while the attorney worries about the applicable
statutes, legal precedent, and advocacy strategy.
Further, attorneys are used to conflict, used to the typical tactics used by the opposing party, know how
to effectively speak with and persuade the decision-maker, and are skilled at wading through the
paperwork while keeping laser-like precision on the issue to be resolved.
Attorneys provide immeasurable, though priced, value to clients in a case. However, you as the client,
should always ask your attorney how you can help reduce costs in your case so your attorney can hone
in on their legal skills and reduce their administrative costs. This will result in the best cost-outcome
ratio for you.
In my next column, I’ll provide information on low-cost and free legal services available in Utah. Until
then, please email firstname.lastname@example.org about topics you would like covered in the column.
Disclaimer: all materials in this article are prepared for general information purposes only to permit you
to learn more about legal concepts. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on
as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice.
Published in the October 19, 2017 Wayne & Garfield County Insider.