Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Why should I have a lawyer?
  It shifts the risk of loss for error from you to the lawyer. Provided, of course, you tell the whole truth.  Lawyers, like all  trained professionals, can explain and guide very well if you jointly agree on a course of action. It helps to have the laws explained to you so you can evaluate your options.  

Q:  Why not be my own lawyer ?

A:   90% of the people who have considered being their own lawyer would not roof their own house. When asked why not, their response is that it is too complicated. Keep in mind that even if you are prepared to give up what you normally do and spend an enormous amount of time learning how to be a lawyer, being both the lawyer and the client is difficult because of the emotions involved. It is because they know that emotion trumps logic that smart lawyers rarely represent themselves or family members. Good lawyers can be cost effective.

Q:  Are the most obnoxious lawyers the best?

A: Most people want results and not entertainment.   Being comfortable with your lawyer is important and if having a lawyer who is obnoxious makes you happy, hire one. Some other qualities that you might consider are industrious, prepared, diplomatic, and experienced.

Q:  What shouldn't I expect from an attorney?
The lawyer's job is to marshal facts into sound legal arguments; not to be a paid best friend. Trial lawyers do tend to be interesting companions.  Especially at the shank of the evening.   But you should not expect your lawyer to offer good psychological or other advice outside of his specialty although he probably will offer it anyway.

Q:  What happens at an initial consultation?

A:  Every attorney has her own style, but most will listen to your narrative rendition, questions and objectives.  The attorney will first decide if there is any reason to not continue with the consult such as conflict of client or interest.  If the consult continues, he might give you a brief overview of the law, the strength of your position, the different options available to you, what you can hope to accomplish and what the fees and costs might be.

Q:  What is a retainer?

A:  Many lawyers will not represent you unless you prepay for the service.  This fee should be charged against time actually spent as it is spent.  The pre payment binds the lawyer to you and compels him to give you utmost loyalty and responsiveness.   A good lawyer has more demands on his time than he can handle.  There must be a way to prioritize and prepayment is the simple way to do it.  


Q.  Isn't billing by time spent a terrible idea for the client because it discourages efficiency and rewards inexperience?

A.  Yes.   

Q.  What is a fair hourly rate?

A. There is none.  A fair rate has to do with risk/reward and cost/benefit analysis.   That is why the rate for a third offense DUI is higher than the rate for a first offense DUI.  That is why there is no rational basis for the fee to administer a million dollar estate to be higher than the fee to administer an estate one tenth the size.  

The fair rate is the one that you and the lawyer agree is fair. It is a running discussion except for certain routine finite and bounded tasks.  The hourly rate is most often given as a cost and not a value.    For example: a lawyer who solves your million dollar problem in three hours will not believe $1,000 is a fair fee.  The same three hours making a losing and non productive preliminary objection to a complaint for payment under a service contract is not worth a nickel.   

    Reed Law

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