Tag: fees

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 11: Something for nothing?

By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant

Giving without expectation is one of the hardest things to do in this life. I often wonder in our capitalistic society why it is so important to do things for others with the expectation of payment.  

Then I became a legal assistant for a divorce attorney. 

I am amazed at how many people feel entitled to free legal services. Of course, it is true that not everyone who wants something for free is taking advantage of you, but in the case of legal practices, it is often the case. 

I am now beginning to realize that expecting payment for goods and services is not greed. It also serves as a check against abusive behavior. The amount of phone calls and emails I get from other people who are upset and demanding has shown me why it is important not to just do things for free “too much”. Some people have no problem taking advantage of others by milking others for free stuff and free services. Worse, some people who know they can get something for free abuse the privilege and try to ride that gravy train as far as it will take them. Worse, some people use the free stuff and free services to do harm.  

That’s not to say I should never be altruistic. Just the opposite. We all face times when we need help because we can’t help ourselves. But there’s a difference between a hand up and a handout.  

I can see the importance of providing protection against those who would abuse others’ compassion and generosity. Payment can be a form of protection against parasites. An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work does a lot to ward off freeloaders. Paying for what goods and services are worth helps ensure they aren’t wasted and go where they are needed or wanted most. Paying helps us clearly differentiate between needs and wants, requirements and mere conveniences.   

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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I’ve never seen a GAL or custody evaluator add value equal to the fees they charge

I’ve never seen a GAL or custody evaluator add value equal to the fees they charge

This post is the fourteenth in series of 15 posts on the subject of custody evaluations and the appointment of guardians ad litem (“GALs” for short) in Utah child custody cases when the judge could simply interview the children instead. You do not have to read all 16 posts to benefit from this series. Read as many or as few as you wish.

The purpose of this series is to make the case for the proposition that an interview by the judge is a faster, more accurate, more particular, more reliable, and less expensive form of evidence than what a GAL and/or custody evaluator provides.

I’ve never seen a guardian ad litem or custody evaluator add value to the child custody analysis that is equal to what the GAL and/or custody evaluator charged in fees, and here is why:

First and most glaring of all, there is no way to know if the guardian ad litem has done anything (let alone done anything well or poorly) because the guardian ad litem does not have to make a record and is not subject to discovery. The guardian ad litem could literally do nothing and lie through his or her teeth to the court and there is be no way discover and expose it except by dumb luck. Custody evaluators, as opposed to guardians ad litem, can be subject to some discovery, but rarely is a custody evaluator willing to part with his or her file contents in response to a discovery request. It is often very difficult to get a custody evaluator to comply with the discovery request, if a discovery request is made.

Back to the problems of guardians ad litem specifically. Because the guardian ad litem is not required to furnish the court with any proof in support of any alleged facts that underlie the GAL’s assertions and recommendations, the guardian ad litem’s assertions, analysis, and recommendations literally have the same evidentiary value as any other person’s bald claims.

If there are devoted guardians ad litem out there becoming intimately and accurately acquainted with their child clients’ circumstances and feelings AND providing verifiably accurate and credible factual information to the court, as well as sound analysis based upon and citing to such evidence, I have yet to witness that personally. If anyone viewing this has had a different experience that can be documented and verified, I plead with you to share it with me. I must warn you: even if you were to produce such of guardian ad litem, I would ask whether what the guardian ad litem charged for such a thing justify the expense when the child could have been interviewed directly by the judge instead.

Third, even if we were to grant that a guardian ad litem somehow furnished accurate evidence and analysis—without the basis of that evidence and analysis being subject to discovery and verification and without having to make a record of what the children are asked and what they say in response—the amount and quality of such evidence and analysis still does not justify the time and money consumed by the appointment of a guardian ad litem compared to the much lower cost, much shorter consumption of time, and greater accuracy of a judge’s on the record interview of the child.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Why do lawyers like to handle large divorce settlements?

Why do lawyers like to handle large divorce settlements?

The more complex and acrimonious the case and/or the more there is at stake, the more work there is to do. The more work to do, the more money it costs to fight and resolve the case. The more it costs to fight and resolve the case the more money a lawyer is paid to fight and resolve the case. Like most everyone, lawyers want more, rather than less, money. This is why lawyers like to handle these kinds of cases.

And before some clown comments with “Yeah, all lawyers make divorce cases drag on needlessly, so that they make more money,” know this: there are certainly such lawyers out there, but not all lawyers are like that. Even most, perhaps, but not all. You can find lawyers out there who won’t charge more than good value demands. They are hard to find, but well worth finding.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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If losers pay winners’ attorney fees, why not hire the most expensive attorney?

If the losing side in a civil suit generally pays the winner’s attorney’s fees, why doesn’t everyone hire the most expensive attorneys?

First, because the U.S. generally does not follow the “loser pays” rule. Some states have such rules, and some cases have such a rule, but it’s not a universal rule in the U.S. (it should be, but I digress).

Second, because nobody knows in advance whether he/she is going to prevail in the law suit, so even if you were in a jurisdiction that followed a “loser pays” rule, that would not guarantee who the winner or loser of a particular law suit will be. So, hiring a very expensive lawyer “knowing” you’ll win the case and thus be awarded all of your attorneys’ fees is extremely irrational.

Third, the winner doesn’t necessarily get a judgment for all attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting the case to completion, but only what the court deems to be “reasonably incurred” attorney’s fees. So, if you hired an attorney who charges twice as much as what the court deems reasonable, the judge would award you half of what you actually incurred, not the full amount.

Fourth, even if you were awarded most or all of the attorney’s fees you incurred, you’d still have to collect those fees from the losing party, which is often an expensive endeavor in its own right. Some people think that if you win a judgment against someone that the court hands you a coupon you can redeem for the money. Not so. And party against whom you obtained the judgment doesn’t have to just write you a check on the spot either. Worse, the loser could file for bankruptcy and just discharge the judgment debt.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What are you tired of explaining when it comes to lawyers?

Nothing. When I am tempted to feel irritated over the questions people ask about lawyers and legal matters, I remember that the questions–though recurring–aren’t being asked by the same person over and over again, but are coming from different people who are asking them for the first time.

What I do find irritating are client gripes masquerading as questions that start with “I don’t understand….”

For example, the client knows why the case is taking as long as it is taking, why the client’s case is weak, why the fees are as high as they are, etc., but believes that by feigning ignorance and saying “I don’t understand…” it all falls on my shoulders to “fix” problems (free of charge, of course) that are not of my creation and/or not within my power to control.

If you are frustrated and anxious about your case, just come clean to your lawyer about it. If your lawyer is a good one, he or she will be much more responsive to candor than if you cloak your fears and concerns with “I don’t understand” statements.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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