That is a fine idea, many of my clients proposes budgets and I propose them for them as well, it is not always the lawyers who go over budget, the client may (rightfully so) allow their emotions to dictate their financial decisions and insist on protracted discovery such as depostions or document requests to frustrate the opposing spouse out of spite or anger. All of these emotions are natural during this delicate process,however a a good attny will make sure to advise the client to think objectively and will do their best to guide the client towards objective decision making. This is the client's case not the lawyers case but the lawyer has an ethical obligation to handle the case professionally which many young and many older attorney's sometimes forget, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of gree. I think a budget is a fine idea but be prepared for cost over runs because just like building a house, if something needs to be done and you don't have the funds, you still need to do it or risk the whole process. Hope that helps.
Legal disclaimer: The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Massachusetts. Responses are based solely on Massachusetts law unless stated otherwise.
Some attorneys will agree to a flat fee for representation. Also, Massachusetts permits limited representation for family law, which permits an attorney to file an appearance to deal with a specific issue in the case such as just the pretrial conference, or just deal with child custody. This may be a good way to stay in budget and not incur excessive legal fees.
Keep in mind though, if you do have an hourly retainer, that it is typically the client's ongoing issues that cause the day to day billing to increase, such as constant phone calls, emails, and issues brought up to deal with the other side.
Every lawyer should discuss the potential costs of a certain course of action with you. That is an important aspect of any case, and allows the client to make a truly informed decision about the costs and benefits of a particular strategy or course of action. Often, the time spent on a client's case is actually caused by the conduct of the other party. Your attorney should give you a good estimate of what a specific course of action will cost (a deposition, a motion to compel if discovery is not provided, more aggressive negotiations, setting a hearing), provide you with likely outcomes, and allow you to decide for yourself whether it is worth it.
One last point, oftentimes what you consider to be useless "chit chat" can be one attorney building trust or a rapport with opposing counsel. This can be incredibly useful and a great benefit to the client when the time comes for negotiations or when a favor or some latitude is needed, or when the clients themselves have become overheated or hostile.
You can make an agreement with an attorney that the budgeted will be the limit of your obligation for fees. Some attorneys will agree to that; others do not. But you cannot unilaterally impose that kind of limit as to legal fees in an existing attorney-client relationship without that limitation. You need to choose an attorney who agrees with that fee limit, or you need to ask your present counsel to make a new agreement that provides for this limitation of your fee obligation.
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