How lawyers fleece you
1. Performing unnecessary work:
A lot of people get caught in this trap because they don't know know what is necessary and what is not. So how do you prevent this from happening? From the get go, tell your lawyer that he may NOT go off and perform any work without your permission, and without an estimate of how much it will cost. You need time to reflect, think about it, talk to others about what your options are, etc. Often there are simple things that you can do on your own (thus saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars).
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE:
Maybe you have been offered a simple contract to license some material to a TV show. The best choice would be to arrange for a 1 hour consultation with a lawyer to review the contract and make suggestions. Unfortunately, all too often there are lawyers who try to orchestrate the WHOLE THING, thus running up MANY hours of work! All of a sudden your lawyer is having back and forth conference calls with the TV show's attorneys, sending and receiving FAXes as they reword the contract to make trivial adjustments, and calling and FAXing YOU! All of this adds up.
2. Charging you for time consuming work that should really be a standard "out of the box" job:
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE:
Lets say you need to transfer assets to your LLC. A lawyer could easily spend 10 hours drafting a contract up from scratch. Instead you could buy a standard "transfer and assignment" contract online for about $20, then possibly have a lawyer make minor tweeks to it if needed. Even a lawyer should just tweek an existing contract, thus saving you money by not drafting it from scratch.
3. Doing lengthy, expensive research to answer something that another lawyer already knows the answer to:
Ask a lawyer a simple question and he might say "let me get back to you on that", then later bill you for 4 hours of research, when you could have instead paid for just a 1 hour consultation with another lawyer to answer the same question.
4. Being their own judge and jury as to how many hours they worked:
You never really know how long a lawyer really takes to do his work. He gets to decide and then he bills you. Before he begins work you need to ask him "How much is this going to cost me?" If his bill seems outrageous, complain! Call the bar association!
5. Doing premature research / work:
Most lawsuits settle before they go to trail. Yes you want to be prepared and plan ahead, but some issues are best left unanswered unless and until they actually do come into play.
ASSUME that your lawyer is trying to make as much money off of you as possible. Accordingly you need to lay down the law from the get go. Explain that you want to cut corners every way you can because money does not grow on trees, you are a do-it-yourself type person, and due to your financial position you have no choice. Of course they will tell you that hell may freeze over if you do it your way, but again you can't trust lawyers. So just do it your way.
When your lawyer says "We need to do this", you need to question his advice because of the conflict of interest (him wanting your money).
If any lawyer gets upset over your way of doing things then move on to the next lawyer. That upset lawyer is just the guy you want to AVOID!