Here in New York City, as elsewhere, legal fees can vary wildly depending on which attorney you hire. It’s important to understand why certain attorneys can cost more, and what it means about choosing an attorney to represent your criminal case.
Here are four factors which can determine the price of your legal fees.
Let’s face it, nothing in New York City is cheap. While you might find a lawyer willing to work for $100 an hour in rural South Dakota, it’s impossible for most of us to charge those sorts of rates here. You’re much more likely to pay $200 to $600 an hour. That’s because even the cheapest office space in the city goes for at least $55 per square foot on an annual basis.
That means even if your attorney has crammed himself or herself into a modest 1,000 square foot office in an older office building in Chelsea he or she is paying $4,583.33 per month just to have a place to meet with clients and conduct work. The attorney also needs to keep the lights on, the phones running, and the Internet up. If there is anyone in that office other than the attorney these people have to be paid. We also need memberships to databases which help us conduct our business. All of this adds up. Trust us, that amount that seems so high to you? Most of it isn’t going home with us.
A lawyer with less than three years of experience will charge the minimum amount. That person is just getting started and is trying to build a reputation and a practice. If you’re dealing with a large law firm that lawyer at least has the ability to duck his or her head into a partner’s office to get a little advice. If you’re dealing with a solo practitioner you’re taking your chances.
There are some very talented lawyers fresh out of law school, but experience makes a huge difference. Familiarity with New York’s legal landscape matters too. Even knowing who the judges are and what’s likely to annoy them can have a big impact. It may be that young lawyer is all you can afford, and if so it’s certainly a better choice than getting saddled with an overwhelmed PD. But you should be aware you’re taking a risk.
#3) Pricing Structure
Not all criminal attorneys bill by the hour. Some set a flat daily rate for their services. This can save you or cost you depending on the complexity of your case and the experience of the attorney who is charging you.
Some will even break down the costs depending on who is working on the case. You may pay $300 an hour for the attorney’s direct attention but only $95 an hour for those times when a paralegal is taking on some of your work.
There are also lawyers who are willing to bill on a sliding scale depending on your income. These are usually nonprofit firms. Their services may not be accessible to all-comers.
Sam Glover over at The Lawyerist makes this point pretty nicely: “When you sign a retainer agreement, our client’s problem basically becomes our problem.” You’re paying for individualized attention from a specialist. Lower legal fees can mean less of that attention, whether because the lawyer has to juggle more cases to stay afloat, or because more of your casework is going to junior lawyers or paralegals.
Of course, paying top dollar is no guarantee you’re getting the best legal representation. There are outstanding attorneys who charge less and crappy attorneys who charge more. Regardless, whatever you’re paying, you should look for a lawyer who is going to give you focused, individualized attention and who will put the time and energy into bringing your case to its best possible outcome.
How Much Should Fees Matter?
In general fees should not be the first thing you think about when you look for a lawyer. While you obviously want to make sure you can pay your bills it can’t be your first consideration.
Instead, you should ask yourself about the lawyer’s experience. Dig into his or her ratings and reviews. Find out how long that lawyer has been practicing. Figure out if you’re personally comfortable with this lawyer.
Here at Greco Neyland we strive to keep our fees reasonable. We also offer flexible payment plans. We do this because we believe everyone has the right to a solid criminal defense. We do this regardless of the charges or the complexity of your case. And with just three attorneys in the office you know you’re getting the individualized attention of someone who cares.
We’re not the lowest-cost lawyers in New York City, but we are lawyers who offer a good balance between experience, attention, and the fees we charge.
So if you’re in trouble, consider us. We’re on-call 24/7 and are ready to help you manage your criminal case.