10 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Attorneys

(3)             If You Pay Hourly, Find out the Billing Increment

Just as the hourly rates of attorneys vary on an individual basis, so do their billing increments. It can be more expensive to hire an attorney that charges $250 per hour and bills in quarter-hour increments (fifteen minutes), than to hire a $350 per hour attorney who bills in tenth of an hour increments (six minutes). For example, if an attorney drafts a response to an email from the opposing party and it takes five minutes, then the attorney who bills in the quarter-hour increment at $250 per hour will bill you $62.50 for that email. On the other hand, an attorney who charges $350 per hour in tenth-hour increments will only bill you $35.00 for that email. Certainly, when hours of time are being spent by an attorney on one task, the less expensive hourly rate will end up being less expensive, but when it comes to communication, the attorney with the smallest billing increment will usually be less expensive.

Because of this, if you hire an attorney on an hourly basis, make sure to find out the billing increment before signing anything. If their billing increment is large (i.e. half-hour increments), then make sure you will not be charged for any time unless the attorney devotes the entire half-hour to your case.

You will be better able to control your legal fees just by knowing what the billing increment is. If you know that your attorney charges for phone calls, rather than calling two times during a week to get a status update and to bring attention to a thought you had during the week, see if you can save up a few questions and then ask them all in one phone call. This way you will avoid paying for two separate minimum-billing-increment charges.