Yes, ALOT less. See http://www.nolo.com/product.cfm/ObjectID/139AEDE9-69A0-4810-A7A87D2AD5422664/310/.
Note: patenting an invention is part law, pat science and part art. The law, is knowing what to file and when and how to satisfy the various statutory requirements for a patent. The science is being able to describe the invention in precise terms. Ah, but the art -- the art is about describing the device in a manner that covers the actual invention, and any invention that is reasonably close to the invention, so as to preven others from doing similar things -- as well as to make the patent description ambiguous enough so that it's difficult for a competitor to do something similar, without a lot of research and development.
So, when I say that you can patent something for a lot less than $12,000, you certainly can. But, your protection may not be as good as it would have been were the patent done by an experienced patent lawyer.
But, that's the risk vs. benefit calculus -- and your friend will have to decide which route to choose.
Hope this helps.
Terms and Conditions: By your continuing in this conversation with me, or by your clicking “Accept”, you are expressly agreeing to all of the following: (1) our communication is for entertainment purposes only; (2) you are not consulting me in my professional capacity as an attorney; (3) you do not seek to establish an attorney-client relationship with me, nor do I with you; (4) you will not rely on anything I say and you will obtain appropriate legal counsel via a traditional/office consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where your legal issue arises (and you may not use our communication to avoid taxpayer penalties imposed by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury); (5) by communicating with me in this public forum you are irrevocably waiving any right to privacy, confidentiality and attorney-client privilege concerning the matters discussed. You further separately declare that any payment made by you is not consideration for this contract, nor offered for any services rendered by me on your behalf, but rather is made in genuine admiration and respect for my desire to help others. If you do not agree with these terms and conditions, then you must advise me immediately.