Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Why Are Lawyers So Expensive Even with the Excess Supply of Them?

The simple answer is bundling. This means that the attorney you engage will be involved in all aspects of the work - including reviewing documents, preparing exhibits, making phone calls, writing letters, researching and much more.

What bundling means

Lawyers usually charge hourly rates. When you engage an attorney to help you - whether it’s for a litigation or transactional matter - a lawyer will spend time reviewing documents prior to developing a response. Even if a young associate is charged with that part of the job, the document review alone can easily run into thousands of dollars at $300 / hour - or more. And even at lower hourly rates, the associate isn’t going to have the expertise of a seasoned attorney. This means clients often end up paying less experienced lawyers to cut their teeth on your file with the resulting inefficiency costing you even more.

Stratospheric Hourly Rates

When you hire an attorney, you want a seasoned veteran who can resolve your legal issues quickly and effectively. More experienced lawyers will charge higher premiums and this also drives the hourly rate for younger partners and associates.

Unreasonable Overhead

One of the main culprits contributing to dizzying hourly rates is overhead. Top notch law firms seek to locate in some of the choicest locations where rent is often the highest. When you add furnishings, art collections and a host of other amenities, those hourly rates can climb fast.

Solutions

Some of the answers posted here have suggested that the problem is a void of smaller law firms, specifically boutiques. However the empirical data shows that there’s an ample supply of mid-ranged firms that isn’t doing much to solve the problem.

This is likely due to the staggering costs associated with starting a solo or small practice combined with the fact that most lawyers who fly solo or opt to establish leaner offices are at the senior associate or junior partner level. This means that their hourly rates aren’t going to change much - and they’ll still have huge overhead.

Legal services - particularly for small startup companies - are generally inaccessible to the average person or small business because of cost prohibitive fees.

These are some of the central reasons why we started LawTrades: to make lawyers more affordable. By leveraging technology, we’re able to make vital legal services accessible to people and small companies with limited financial resources.

Our tech-enabled attorneys offer outstanding legal services at a fraction of the cost of high-end law firms. Since our unique structure has removed many of the barriers that traditional brick-and-mortar firms will always have to face, we’re able to provide our clients with the highest level of legal expertise competitive with large firms, but without the exorbitant fees.

Unbundling

The age of all-things-digital has blown down a lot of walls in a variety of markets. The legal market is not immune. New doors are opening offering clients the ability to unbundle legal services so they can order what they need a la carte, and not be compelled to pay for things they don’t need or want - including document review and phone calls among many other tasks.

The ability to limit the scope of an attorney's services is having a huge impact on the legal marketplace. More lawyers are experimenting with flat and blended rates, and some are even willing to agree to limit the scope of their employment so that clients don’t have to pay for many of the activities that lawyers usually assume they’ll perform.

While things are changing, the truth is that they are changing slowly. Some services offer consumers DIY (do-it-yourself) forms. The challenge here is that they don’t provide guidance, which can result in even larger problems for users. These forms are typically standardized and fail to take into account circumstances that are unique to the individual or business. They also can’t ask the necessary questions or offer qualified guidance with respect to tax planning, financial consequences or other issues specific to both the individual or business and their location.

Premium Results at Affordable Rates

Innovation in the legal marketplace is no doubt occurring, but not fast enough to help the person or business that needs immediate legal assistance at a price they can afford.

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What Are Common Legal Expenses for Startups?