Recently, I was retained by two clients we will call, Ann and Eric. Both were about to wed and hired me to prepare and negotiate a pre-nuptial agreement for them. Eric had a somewhat complex agreement; Ann had relatively simple one. Both of their fiancée’s were represented by counsel. When I reviewed my billing, I noticed that Ann’s attorney’s fees were substantially higher than Eric’s. Why?
Eric’s fiancée was represented by a competent counsel; we addressed her concerns intelligently and the agreement was finalized in a few drafts, each refining the prior version.
Ann’s fiancée’s representation was, hum, different. During our negotiations, the attorney added terms to the agreement that had not been discussed or agreed to. I emailed the other attorney my comments that said, regarding the new term “The parties did not agree to this.” When I reviewed the revised agreement, I was shocked to read that term I commented on now read “The parties did not agree to this!!”
Needless to say, we had to go through countless drafts to get the agreement right.
Each time, the agreement was revised and reviewed, Eric incurred more legal fees.
In another case, my client’s husband was represented by a family friend who clearly did not practice family law in New York. Her inexperience showed. Negotiations failed because the inexperienced attorney was inflexible and advocating positions unsupported by law. This left my client no choice but to litigate. When we conferenced the case with the judge, the judge summarily rejected every one of my adversary’s arguments.
Even though my client “won” she had a much higher legal bill than if her husband was represented by competent counsel. My client’s spouse lost too; because his attorney was inflexible and locked on unsustainable positions, my client was less willing to compromise after the judge ruled in her favor.
In an environment where time is money, you need your attorney to represent you efficiently. That may be impossible to do when your adversary is inattentive, inexperienced or incompetent.
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