There are a lot of law firms out there that promise to help you with whatever legal issues you’re facing. Their attorneys seem friendly, and they may offer you miraculously low rates. Sadly, if that’s the case, then the situation is probably too good to be true. The tragic reality is that far too many in our communities are duped into predatory legal practices that leave them on the hook for extensive amounts of money that they may not be able to pay.
How do some attorneys prey on unsuspecting clients?
Unscrupulous attorneys can find many ways to trick their clients, typically by violating the rules of professional conduct. Here are just some of the tactics that these lawyers might deploy:
- Rounding up billable hours: Attorneys keep close track of billable hours and charge those to their clients. But sometimes attorneys cheat their clients by rounding up billable time to the next half-hour or hour.
- Padding time: Some attorneys will claim that a task took more time than it did, which means that you’ll end up being charged more for less work. This will not only be expensive, it can also leave you with legal representation that isn’t nearly as good as you deserve.
- Charging for overhead: Some attorneys charge their clients for overhead costs like air conditioning and other utilities. This can quickly raise your bill, and you probably never would’ve expected to pay for those expenses.
- Promising a certain result: Everyone who steps into the legal arena hopes that they have a strong case and that they’ll be victorious. That’s why so many people are susceptible to attorneys who make false promises of favorable results. A good attorney will never promise any particular result, because no one can guarantee what will happen in court. Yet, time-and-time-again, individuals are tricked into working with a particular lawyer because of what he or she has promised.
What can you do to avoid predatory legal practices?
After reading the tricks mentioned above, you might be worried that you’ll never be able to find an attorney you can trust. We understand your trepidation, but we also hope that you take comfort knowing that there are steps that you can take to protect yourself and ensure that you receive representation from a trustworthy and reputable attorney. Here are some of those steps:
- Read online reviews, which can give you a sense of how former clients have felt about the law firm’s services
- Review any fee agreement and have someone else look over them, too, so that you can spot any red flags and you can ask clarifying questions, if needed
- Meet with the attorney for a consultation to get a sense of his or her personality and approach, which will allow you to better gauge if the attorney is trustworthy
- When you meet with a potential representative, ask questions about their track record, their experience, and their plan for your case
- Be on guard when an attorney offers you what seems like a really low price or promises you grand results
- Look the attorney up online to see if he or she has any disciplinary history that may be concerning to you
Pick an attorney who will put you and your interests first
Choosing an attorney can be difficult, especially when you don’t have much experience dealing with the law and you’re overwhelmed by your options. That being said, it’s important that you do your homework and ask appropriate questions as you engage in the decision-making process. After all, that’s going to be the only way that you can put your mind at ease knowing that you’ve picked representation that is truly looking out for you and your interests.