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Chasing The American Dream

December 01, 2004


Warren Zevon rocks. Thought it’s only one vague reference, it feels good to pay homage to him. Anyway, I’m sitting here reading this bill that I got from my divorce lawyer. In all fairness, I think he’s a nice guy and is doing his best to keep his fees down. Sure that might be naive thinking on my part, but I really believe it to be true. My ex’s bee-ahtch of a lawyer has piled up almost $5,000 in fees. I hate that lady, and I don’t even know her. What did King Richard the Lionhearted say? “My kingdom for a gun.” My lawyer has billed me for roughly a third of that. I know that total will climb significantly as the January 14th trial date approaches.

So I’m looking at this bill. I never scrutinized these bills because, honestly, I don’t want to see how much money is going down the drain. I scan them quickly and then write the check. I know these bills are only coming monthly, but to me, it seems they arrive daily. I get that heavy envelope in the mail and think, “Geez, didn’t I just pay him?” I don’t know why, but I decided to take a hard look at this bill. My old college Economics professor’s theory came immediately to mind. TINSTAAFL. “Tinstaffle” was how Sanford V. Berg pronounced it. Have you guys ever heard of this theory? Sure you have. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Right you are, professor Berg.

I’m being nickled and dimed for everything. Every email I send, every copy they make, every stamp they lick. Nothing’s free. Why does it cost me 15 cents to send an email? There’s no cost to him, is there? Sure, he bills me for reading the email, but why charge me an additional 15 cents? Believe me, it may seem small, but it adds up. 15 cents per copy made? I’d say that’s a pretty good mark-up? Do I really need all these copies made and sent to me? Postage, too. I get a monthly bill, AND I get billed for the postage on the bill!

Fees, of course, are billed hourly. It’s interesting how they come up with their calculations. Maybe someone can explain this to me. For example, my ex is running up quite the dental bill. It’s over a grand now. I’m currently paying for dependent and spousal coverage, but not everything is covered in the dental plan. She’s getting root canals, crowns, yada, yada, yada and the bill is coming to me. No way, I’m paying for any of that. So I send the bill and an explanation to my lawyer. My guess is it MIGHT have taken a whole minute to read. You wanna know what I got charged? I got billed for 0.04 hours. What? Being an accountant, I had to crunch the numbers. That’s 2.4 minutes, or 2 minutes and 32 seconds. At the rate of $185/hour, that’s a fee of $7.40. Here’s another one. .13 hours for file maintenance which equates to 7.8 minutes or 7 minutes and 48 seconds. And it goes on and on. So tell me, do they really keep track of hours with a stopwatch? Uchh. Why did I analyze this bill?

Say, did you hear the one about Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, an honest lawyer and an old drunk? Yeah, they’re walking down the street together when they simultaneously spot a hundred dollar bill. Who gets it? The old drunk, of course; the other three are mythological creatures


  • sounds like your getting off cheap, relatively speaking. a friend of mine recently consulted with his attorney on several occassions regarding a divorce. papers were drawn up, filed and about to be served when he had a change of heart(or a realization she was going to get half of everything). his bill was close to 6g's. on a seperate note, the documentary on warren's final days was poignant and heart-breaking. definitely worth the time. helps put the trivial and mundane aspects of life into perspective.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:17 PM, December 01, 2004  

  • "Well," says the young blog-reading lawyer, "it's just as frustrating and embarrassing to bill someone that much for a phone call." :)

    But it does sound like you're actually doing well on fees for your case. Divorces can get STEEP on fees . . .

    Best of luck!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 PM, December 01, 2004  

  • regarding overbilling, you HAVE seen The Firm, right?

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 7:46 AM, December 02, 2004  

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