All About Money

The Cost of a Criminal Defense Lawyer

How much does it cost to hire an attorney for a criminal case? What is the value you get for your money when you hire any professional? A doctor, a real estate agent, a plumber? All are state licensed, required to pass competency examinations and maintain regular continuing education, and have spent many years in school and training to get where they are today. So, how much is it worth? Or, easier to answer, how much do you pay for what you get?

When you need an emergency appendectomy, you don’t do it yourself, you don’t wait for Uncle Bill who is a dentist to give you a referral, you go to the hospital and have emergency surgery. Your surgeon spent 8 years in school followed by residency, specialty residency and board certification. Same for your anesthesiologist. Ever look at your itemized hospital bill? When I have to hire a medical doctor to testify in court, they charge around $500 per hour with a minimum fee of $5,000. I pay tens of thousands of dollars for medical insurance, co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs every year for health. As a percentage of income, it exceeds housing costs.

Real Estate agents have specialized training and likewise must pass licensing exams and continuing education requirements, and they crunch through a lot of the work for you when you are buying or selling a house. The agents and broker split a 6% commission paid from the sale proceeds, so before the seller gets their money, they pay out $30,000 in commissions to the broker and agents on a $600,000 sale, and the seller gets $570,000. The buyer pays the loan broker just under 1% for the loan fee, or another $5,000 to the company that finds the loan for you. If you extrapolate the actual hours spent to earn these fees, the real estate, and money, people are making $500 an hour, give or take.

Ever need a plumber on a holiday weekend? Or even with an appointment a week in advance? Something fixed or installed? Minimum fee plus hourly. The old joke about the lawyer who gets the bill from the plumber and declares, “that’s more than I make as an attorney” and the plumber replies, “yeah, that’s more than I made when I was an attorney, too.”

My fees are $300 per hour. I have seven years of college and a doctorate degree, I passed the Utah State Bar exam in 1985, on the first try, and I get at least 12 hours of continuing education every year. My school, the SJ Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah, remains highly ranked, just like it was 40 (*gasp*) years ago when I started as a first-year student. I have 37 years of practical experience, I have tried over 120 criminal cases to juries, and a few civil cases, too. Hiring an experienced professional ain’t cheap. And you get what you pay for.

Good luck with that self-appendectomy, too.