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It'll Cost Ya

Know how your lawyer tallies up your legal tab.

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This story appears in the July 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Just because lawyers are high-rent professionals doesn't mean you can't negotiate with them. Many will "adjust" their fees (before or after the fact) if you know what to ask for. Here are some of the ways your attorney might try to make 2 + 2 = 5:

  • Hourly or daily rates:
  • I believe there's an innate fairness to billing by time-provided your attorney doesn't drag his feet or over-lawyer to pump up his or her receivables. Prevent this by insisting he or she: 1) gets your express, prior, written approval before specific tasks are undertaken and 2) sends bills frequently enough so you can attempt to control costs.
  • The minimum billing unit:
  • One attorney I know used to brag about billing 10 hours by lunchtime using quarter-hour minimums! Watch the clock. Obviously, the smaller the minimum unit, the better for you.

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