Even though it is at the low end of the rates charged in Santa Barbara by Certified Family Law Specialists, $360 an hour is, at first glance, shocking. However, it makes sense within the context of mediation for two reasons:
(1) In mediation, at least 90% of the work is done in the presence of the clients. At least 90% of the charges for conventional representation in a divorce are incurred outside the presence of the client. Pause to consider the significance of the difference; it’s huge.
(2) Regardless of the rate mediation is cheap. Of course it’s impossible to predict with certainty how many hours of mediation a given case will require. It could be a matter of doing nothing more than helping the couple to complete the court forms or it could involve a dozens of hours of mediation. However, the statistical “mode” for my cases is around ten hours. The cost of preparing two drafts of the Marital Settlement Agreement is usually $1500 or less. So “a typical” cost of a mediated divorce is (10 hours x $360 $3600 = ) plus $1500 = $5100.*
[Note: This is a statistical finding which represents no particular case and it has nothing to do with your case. Don’t select me as your mediator because you think I can help you finish your case with the use of less professional time than some other mediator(s).
Compare this to the typical retainer charged in Santa Barbara for conventional representation in a case with assets of less than about $2M which will be at least $5000 per party and sometimes $10,000 or higher. This is the “retainer.” It is usually followed by one or more “refreshers,” and a “closer.” [seriously]
I am in favor of the flat fee for the delivery of most legal services. If the couple expresses an interest after the first two or three mediation sessions, I’m always willing to propose a flat fee for the services necessary to complete the case.