Why is it so expensive to hire a lawyer?

Good question.   Have you heard the story about the patient who complained to his heart surgeon because the surgeon charged $20,000.00 for an open heart surgery that took two hours to perform?  The patient took his bill to his next doctor’s appointment and asked the surgeon how he could sleep at night after charging him $20,000.00 for two hours of work.  The patient complained, “at that rate you’re making $10,000.00 per hour.”  The doctor replied “I didn’t charge you $10,000.00 per hour, I charged $250.00 per hour for my time and $19,500.00 for knowing where to cut.”

People who provide professional services like lawyers, doctors, and accountants have all invested a lot of time and money in “knowing where to cut.”  The financial investment in the education that it takes to get into a profession like law can be enormous.  Once a lawyer passes the bar exam and becomes admitted to practice then they have to stay current with the ever-changing laws and take continuing legal education courses every year.  Just like any other profession or occupation, the longer you do something and the more experience you gain, the better you become at it.  Legal fees often reflect the experience level of the professional you are dealing with.  You wouldn’t hire a heart surgeon who didn’t know where to cut would you?

Much of my work is based upon a contingency fee which means that I get paid a percentage of the total recovery.  There are substantial risks involved in handling a case based upon a contingency fee because I have to invest my time and money in the case and there is often a risk that there may not be any recovery at all.  However, when I handle non contingency fee cases, the fee I charge reflects the four years that I spent in college, three years of law school, continuing education every year, and twelve years of hands on experience in and out of virtually every courthouse in Mobile County.  If you break that down into time (assuming 40 hours a week) I have invested 14,560 hours in my legal education and I have 24,960 hours of experience practicing law.  If I charge $250.00 per hour like the heart surgeon in the story above then I’m making 0.006 cents (that’s 6 thousands of one penny) an hour for all of my education, training, and experience.  It seems to me like my clients are getting a pretty good deal— I hope they think so too.

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