With so much of my work involving post-separation co-parenting, I am constantly struck by the outrageous amounts of money people spend on lawyers. I’ve talked before about how counter productive it is for children and how the money could be better spent in other ways.
For today, I want to focus on WHY lawyers fees are so ridiculously high? And the bottom line, from the lawyers I know, is that “that’s the going rate”. Clients expect these exorbitant fees and are willing, if they have the money and can’t get Legal Aid, to pay them. Why do we as a society tolerate this money gouging by the legal profession?
I am a clinical psychologist and a lawyer. Even in America, where law school is incredibly costly and takes three full years post graduate, it takes more years and costs more money to become a psychologist than a lawyer. So why do psychologists charge less than lawyers? Because the “market will bear” exorbitant lawyer fees. But do we as humans have to buy into this narrative?
In America some lawyers would justify their fees based on the expense of law school. Even though, as seen before, that argument has more holes than Swiss Cheese, it certainly is not a viable argument in Australia. It doesn’t cost more to become a lawyer in Australia than to work in many (most?) professional capacities requiring a degree and a license or registration.
Years ago I got a phone call from a family lawyer who asked if he can provide some information about a mutual client. I said I’d be happy to listen but he needed to know that I would notify my client that we talked. He laughed and said “oh, she will know because I will bill her for my time”. It never crossed my mind to bill the client for my time.
$800/hour for a lawyer seems exorbitant because it is. Until the public collectively refuses to accept this, we cannot expect the legal profession to self-regulate. If you are using a lawyer ask them to itemize their expenses and you can even ask them how they can justify the enormous expense.
This take everything you can get mentality pervades capitalism, and no where is it manifested more clearly than it is with lawyers.