Do you feel like your lawyer is ripping you off and wondering, “How to Tell If Your Lawyer Is Ripping You Off?”
Here are 7 tell-tale signs he’s a frauding you, plus 4 ways to stop them immediately.
Ideally, lawyers are expected to act honestly and competently; however, the legal industry shares some rotten apples when it comes to the conduct of lawyers in general, which brings up two critical questions; how is a client to know when something’s wrong?
What are the signs that you got a problem with your lawyer? Generally, a lawyer can misbehave in various ways, including miscommunications, not being diligent, excuses, avoiding clients, and ripping off their clients.
If you sense that your lawyer is ripping you off, then this article is meant for you.
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Here’s How to Tell If Your Lawyer is Ripping You Off & Overcharging:
Some of the ways through which you can tell if your lawyer is ripping you off comprise of:
1. Double Billing (Unethical Billing Practices Attorneys):
Ideally, for the most part, regular lawyers charge clients a few dollars or rather a reasonable amount for work done; nonetheless, human nature is such that despite the amount earned, they always look for ways to increase their very unethical income.
Generally, the American Bar of Association prohibits double billing, but lawyers end up practicing and that way ripping off their clients without their knowledge.
The practice of double-billing occurs in such a way that a lawyer bills an hourly rate to two clients for the same time spend working.
A third of American lawyers admit to practicing double billing their clients occasionally in relevance to a survey conducted by the University of Samford Cumberland Law school. One of the most common reasons behind this unethical behavior is to increase their income.
A good example of double billing might occur when a lawyer is traveling to meet a client. Generally, the time and the expense of the trip are billed to the client.
On the way to meet this client, the lawyer receives a call from another client; the lawyer receives the call, talks about the emergent issue, and bills this client for his time.
To this effect, the lawyer ends up billing two clients simultaneously for the same time and thus increasing his billable hours without spending much time at work.
Another example might occur during the court proceeding as the parties, and their lawyers wait for a judge to deal with their case; a lawyer might offer their services elsewhere and, as a result, end up double billing.
2. Padding Hours
This is the other way that your lawyer might use to rip you off, and it’s basically a polite way of lying about the number of hours worked.
Most lawyers achieve this by making up extra hours out of thin air, saying they worked for seven hours while literally, it’s four hours.
Some might even say they can’t recall the number of hours they used to work on a case, thus ending up estimating to create more hours.
In other instances, lawyers end up engaging in unnecessary work such as accompanying their clients to their place, thus charging the padding hours.
3. Out of the Box Charges
Lawyers end up charging higher rates compared to the standard ones. In many cases, lawyer charges out of the box rates on new clients and those who are new to the practice.
They take advantage of their client’s little knowledge of the rates, thus overcharging for their services.
In most cases, when you engage a lawyer to assist you with your case, the request for an upfront fee so that they can start working on your case, and some of the lawyers might ask for more than 50% of the agreed amount.
Nonetheless, after making the payment, the lawyer might start to neglecting the case or even working at a slower pace, which forces you to pay more to motivate them to work.
If a lawyer asks for an upfront fee of 50% of the total amount or even more, then that’s a sign that they intend on ripping you off.
The situation might even worsen with some of these lawyers ignoring your texts, calls, or even emails.
5. Being inefficient
Inefficiency comes in when the lawyer becomes unreliable as well as inconvenient.
For instance, upon asking your lawyer a simple question that another lawyer already knows the answer to, they start doing expensive and lengthy research.
Most of them do this to charge you for extra hours; instead of paying them for an hour for a consultation, you end up paying for more hours.
6. Attempting Premature Work
The idea is to make extra money off of you as much as possible. In this case, the lawyer will exploit every avenue that comes their way.
In some instances, the lawsuit settles even before going to trial. Even though you need to prepare adequately, some issues are best left unanswered until they ultimately come into play.
Nonetheless, for a lawyer who is ripping off their client, they will try to exploit each avenue that comes their way, even if it’s not necessary.
7. Using Forms
In most cases, many of the documents that lawyers prepare for their clients are edited versions of old templates. Instead of charging for minor edits, the lawyer charges for a completely new document as if it’s prepared from scratch, thus ending up ripping off their clients.
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What do you do if your lawyer rips you off?
Before getting a lawyer to help you with your case, you should embark on a keen search for a good lawyer; you can also ask for referrals and lastly asking the right questions during your initial meeting.
Further, some of the ways to avoid been ripped off by your lawyer during your case incorporate:
1. Understanding the Parameters Around Your Case
Familiarize yourself with the common elements of your case, including the standard legal fees, the estimated rates for legal services, the appropriate retainer (upfront fee), and the terms of the agreement.
This way, you will be able to identify a rip-off attempt by your lawyer.
2. Request for a Flat, Cap Contingent Fee or a Mix of the Three
In most cases, when you pay a retainer fee to your lawyer, you increase the risk of negligence or increased inefficiency.
In consideration of transparency and uncertainties, the legal market has been evolving in association with protecting the client from exploitation.
You can negotiate for a flat fee for starters, which will represent the entire agreed amount the lawyer will earn regardless of the outcome of the case, and they are typically charged upfront.
The flat fee is all-inclusive of filing charges, court reporter fees, personal investigation fees, travel-related expenses, among other legal fees.
You can also use fee caps, an alternative billing method where the lawyer charges on an hourly basis but is limited to a certain amount of money.
Lastly, you can use the contingent billing method, which is a fee based on a case’s outcome. This fee is beneficial to you in such a case that if you lose your case, then you won’t be responsible for any lawyer-related fees.
3. Avoid Signing the Contract During the First Visit
In most cases, lawyers don’t quote prices until they listen to the facts surrounding the case, and the main reasons behind this are two-fold; that is, the lawyer is afraid of giving price estimates over the phone and later on realizing that the facts are way off when the facts of the case are laid on the table.
Secondly, when the lawyer meets the client, they do most of the talking, and towards the end, the lawyer will explain their experience and qualifications and this way selling themselves to the client.
Unfortunately, this ultimately leads to making bad decisions that might result in the lawyer ripping you off.
In most cases, lawyers use these two points of view to ripping off their clients, enticing them to sign the contract on their initial meeting, and at times this contract might contain statements and agreements that might end up ripping the client off.
Invest your time in searching for the right lawyer.
4. Be Wary of Paying Initial Consultation Fee
The most crucial thing you should know is that you do not need to pay a lawyer to hire them.
In most cases, lawyers are expensive, and it should not cost you a single penny to find out whether you like or want to hire a specific lawyer or not.
In a real sense, the initial consultation will be the attorney asking you questions and finding out the facts regarding your case at hand.
In most cases, lawyers will ultimately advise you on what route to take towards winning your case during your initial consultation visit. That way, they might ask for an initial consultation fee, which is unnecessary.
Nonetheless, if your lawyer uses some legal referral services, then the charges are justifiable.
To this end, it’s rather apparent that lawyers can easily rip you off even without your knowledge; however, you need not worry since the above ideas might help you identify signs of your lawyer ripping you off, and that way, knowing how to navigate around it.
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