So why is the question even asked? Probably because some people believe legal help should not be affordable, legal help should only be for rich people, or anything affordable simply cannot be any good? REALLY?!
Everyone knows that money talks. Everyone knows that in personal injury, your attorney will not even charge you upfront for most things; they will take a lien. Why? Because they will be paid later since your case is so good, supposedly. In fact, they may end up taking up to 40% of your settlement depending on what is done. But in family law, and criminal law, such contingency upfront liens are not used. Most can possibly get a real property lien for attorney fees, so something similar. But not an actual contingency lien. (Those are the ads for if you don't win you don't pay...) In family law, you will likely end up paying unless there is a way your attorney can get the fees from the other party.
Family law rules have certain criteria on who can get paid their fees, and from where. In many instances, it is the female who does not work, being paid by the male who does work. But not always. We have seen attorneys implicating that "affordable" is not good, but that a standard is good. Surely most attorneys do not believe that simply because something is affordable, it cannot be up to standard? That is simply wishful thinking. In family law, we have seen attorneys easily charge $3,000, $4,000, $5000, and client never gets a dime, never even gets into court to be heard, and the paperwork filed probably took about an hour to prepare.
Majority of graduates of national Ivy League colleges or law schools normally don't even bother to practice Family Law in the first place. Family law is a very different type of practice because it requires an incredible amount of people skills, patience, and to some degree, extra effort in the compassion department. It also requires one to be able to handle very difficult emotional clients--which many attorneys simply cannot, will not, or choose not to engage with........
Family law has a very high rate of "burnout" meaning, it is taxing in part, due to the emotional situations that are commonly seen. Clients are usually mad, sad, crying, fighting, bitching, moaning, complaining. That is par for the course-- professional people in divorces, non professional, all of them. 95% of them are mad. Money issues make them mad, custody law makes them mad. Can we blame them? Not really.
Just remember that few attorneys want to actually "be" affordable. Affordable pricing for clients will usually mean, attorney does not purchase or lease a Porsche, Mercedes,Tesla, you get the drift?
Many people realize that most attorneys are not poor, and it's not because they charge a lower rate. Some people believe that people who engage in document prep for pro se clients, or those individuals that function as LDAs (legal document assistants) or anyone that does unbundled work for clients must not be worthy. That is just a biased view against anyone who has ever helped clients who have less money; the state of CA has purposely set up the Family law Facilitator and SHARP (to name a few) in order to help with the increasing amount of people who cannot afford attorneys at all.
And with 75 to 80% of clients in pro se status in Family law cases, this has caused a huge backlog in the courts, for example, in the Bay Area, several court houses closed and divorces take 2 years to finalize; in Sacramento, the backlog is estimated at 1.5yr to get a judgment. Much of that is because the paperwork needed for the cases is not prepared correctly and keeps getting sent back.
Therefore, having the paperwork done correctly will lessen the time it takes to process it--and guess what? Few attorneys actually prepare paperwork when it comes to forms, most is done by the paralegal or assistant. Those forms are mostly free online, but one does have to know what to do with the forms.For example, failure to properly list an asset as a separate asset may cause the Court to believe it is a community asset. Attorneys may devise the pleadings and the content and will review everything. However, don't believe that attorneys sit at the computer and fill out the forms, because at $350-$500/hr, they should be doing something else.
*We note that IF a specific case is dealing with exceptionally complicated assets, buyouts, commingled assets, premarital documents, exceptional contested facts like a movie star might have, physicians that own 7 separate medical companies, and cases involving multi-national corporations, or multi-national IP offerings--yes--those cases will take a lot of work, normally working with accounting forensics, maybe a special master. (Attorney herein used to be in an office with special master.) But for most of the average divorces, those situations do not happen frequently unless one lives in Silicon Valley or Hollywood.