Probably the worst part about pursuing a legal remedy to a problem is hiring a lawyer. It's not that they're not good. It's not that they don't help you win your case. It's that they're so darn expensive for the average person. With billing rates in the hundreds of dollars per hour, the cost to have an attorney go to court for you can rise quickly.

But companies with deep pockets find attorneys expensive too. Just as Sun-Times Media Group (formerly Hollinger International), the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times and several smaller newspapers. The company reported numbers for 2007, and they weren't good.Contributing to the company's pain were legal fees and liabilities of almost $200 million related to related to former CEO Conrad Black, the man who is now in prison for a fraud that caused shareholders of Hollinger International to lose millions of dollars. Does that make you feel any better about the lawyer bill you recently paid? Probably not, because even bigger lawyer bills paid by your neighbors probably don't ease the pain when you're writing out a check to your attorney.

If lawyer fees have you down, don't look toward an "insurance" plan like Pre-Paid Legal. Those plans are more fluff than substance, and they play right into your fears of attorney bills that you can't afford. Unfortunately, the plans pay for very little real legal help when you need it most. So don't buy one of these bogus plans. You're much better off saving the money you would have spent on the plan and starting a rainy day fund to help you out if you ever do need to hire a lawyer.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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