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Why Lawyers Cost So Much

Last week I had a simple motion to present in traffic court in Virginia. My client just needed a little extension of time to pay his fine.

It took about 30 seconds to actually explain my motion in front of the judge and get his approval.

I had to be at the courthouse at 8:00 AM.

My motion wasn’t heard until 10:05 AM.

I had to wait for 2 hours and 5 minutes for a 30-second motion. And of course I couldn’t do anything productive during that time. You just have to sit there and wait.

This is why lawyers cost so much. We spend hours stuck waiting for things.

How could the legal system be improved?

Telephonic / webcam motions

There’s this awesome thing called the telephone. Why can’t attorney’s handle routine motions like this via telephone (or even better – webcam)? We could save driving time. And even if we have to wait on hold on the phone or in a webcam queue, we could still doing other things in our office.

Nah, that makes too much sense. Government can’t operate like that.

For the record

Two quick points for the record:

1. I didn’t charge my client anything for this court appearance. I consider it included in the flat fee he already paid for his traffic trial. Sadly, many attorneys probably would have billed the client for 2.1 hours for the same 30-second motion.

2. The waiting I had to do isn’t the fault of the specific judge or court. It’s just a fact of our slow, inefficient legal system.

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5 Responses to “Why Lawyers Cost So Much”

  1. Tim
    March 1st, 2009

    I’m a lawyer in Mississippi, and I agree, we lawyers do a lot of waiting.

    Two years ago, or so, I had the opportunity to work with an attorney in Escambia County, Florida (Pensacola, to be exact). According to the lawyer in Pensacola, the judges there set appointments for motions.

    For example, for a motion for summary judgment, you may schedule 15 minutes at 1:15 pm. The judge hears another motion when your scheduled time is over.

    The Pensacola lawyer told me that the judges stick to the schedule too. Seems like a pretty efficient system to me.

  2. Andrew Flusche
    March 2nd, 2009

    @Tim – I love this idea! I wonder how to get something like that in place here. Maybe I need to become buddies with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. I’ll bet he could institute some changes. Heck, our local judges could probably even change local practices on their own.

  3. Bryan Griffith
    March 4th, 2009

    Why do you even need a lawyer to be present for something simple like an extension of time. I would like to see judicial business conducted by law students and paralegals in front of magistrates and leave lawyers and judges to work out the evidence and complex issues.

  4. Andrew Flusche
    March 5th, 2009

    @Bryan – You don’t really have to have a lawyer for an extension of time, but I was doing it as an extra service for my client.

  5. Katina Lee
    July 10th, 2009

    What is bullshit is the attorneys that charge in increments of 0.25 hours. It used to piss me off that I would call an attorney to tell him one thing or ask one question and he would give me a two word answer and then charge me for fifteen minutes meaning I was out like sixty or seventy bucks. I also hate it when an attorney seems all gungho about your case when you hire them and then their tune seems to change as soon as you retain them.

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