Why are Lawyers So Expensive?
Lawyers are expensive for good reason. Becoming a lawyer is expensive, time consuming, and hard. The same is true about practicing as a lawyer. It’s not as simple as trading time for money. Bringing together massive monetary investment, years of arduous study, and years of experience produce a big price tag.
Lawyers have expenses like other ongoing businesses. Overhead can be extreme, and lawyers have to pay it all from the fees they collect. Self-employed lawyers have no one else to lean on for these expenses, either.
Highly skilled employees are valuable and are typically expensive to hire. Legal publications and subscriptions to support services might stun a non-lawyer. For instance, I maintain a library of numerous books, some which cost hundreds of dollars each. Further, many of those books are updated annually, requiring regular, ongoing purchases into thousands of dollars.
Ongoing legal training can cost thousands of dollars and require extensive travel. For instance, I am one of the first lawyers in the United States to earn the Certificate of Completion of the NCDD Advanced Curriculum in Forensic Science and Trial Advocacy. The NCDD is the National College for DUI Defense. To achieve this, I was required to complete courses in four different states, and the total cost of travel and tuition exceeded well over $10,000, all in one year. Each year, I spend many thousands of dollars out of my own pocket trying to stay in the forefront of my field.
Annual dues for organizations, office supplies, electronics, utilities, and many other expenses are also necessary for a law practice.
Of course, we also want to make a good living. We have our own families, responsibilities, and problems like other people, and money matters to all of them.
Attorneys aren’t required to spend as much as I’ve described for training and publications, but I believe it’s important. Staying immersed in my field makes me a better lawyer, which benefits my clients.
Before even starting out as a lawyer, getting a law degree presents its own challenges. In Texas, law schools cost over $100,000 in tuition alone. Law school curriculums consume 3 years of adult life when most people are earning a living. Rather than earning during those 3 years, most law students are taking on significant debt.
To be accepted into law school, one must have already graduated from a university with a 4-year degree. Getting such a degree is an accomplishment in and of itself. Law schools typically only accept college graduates with the highest grades. (My law school class from about 30 years ago rejected 90% of applicants.) Making exceptional grades requires its own price in effort and sacrifice. Few law students hold a full-time job during the 7 years it takes to get a law degree.
As a consequence, most attorneys have invested 7 years into their education and have no money to show for it. Many finish law school in deep debt. Frequently, monthly payments rival those of home mortgage payments and stretch into decades. Debt alone can cause lawyers to regret ever choosing the profession. (That’s not meant to make you feel sorry for us, but to put this topic in perspective.)
Legal fees are not as simple as trading a few hours for some money. They represent the investment of years of training, many thousands of dollars in past and current education, and the accumulation of years of experience and effort.