Fees & Cost
Ordinarily there is no fee for the initial consultation, where the client or the client's family members come in to the office to discuss the case. The main exception to this is in certain criminal cases where a second opinion is sought, or an initial review of case documents for a possible appeal. At some point, either at the first discussion or meeting, a "retainer agreement" will be prepared setting a "retainer fee" which is the amount agreed to be paid, usually in advance of actually beginning to provide representation.
The retainer amount is not a "minimum" or "non-refundable" fee in most cases. Nor is it usually the limit of what the services will cost. A retainer most often reflects an estimate of the value of the services expected to be provided in the case, which we seek to have deposited in advance. In larger cases, under certain circumstances, it may be a first installment toward payment for services to be rendered over an extended period of time.
The most important factor in arriving at a fair fee is the time required to serve the needs of the client. In many cases this cannot be predicted with any certainty. Where the total services needed exceed the initial retainer, we do our best to give an estimate to the client, while at the same time insuring that we will ultimately be paid for the services we intend to provide. A wide range of means exist to secure the payment of the fee, and we make every effort to come up with a method within the means of our clients.
We also bill our clients for all disbursements on their behalf -including postage, photo-copying, long distance phone calls, process service, computerized research and filing fees. Rather than "absorbing" these costs, and inflating our fees accordingly, we believe it best for our clients to know exactly what they are paying for. Deposits requested for expenses are kept in a separate trust account and are returned if unused.
We realize that dealing with paying for legal services is often just an aftershock to the events giving rise to the need for our legal services. Unfortunately we are bound to deal with the financial arrangements at the outset, as difficult as that might be, so that questions about payment do not distract from the issues later on in the case.
Indeed, in federal courts in this district, judges require attorneys at their first appearance in a criminal matter to assure the court that they have been fully paid for every possible development in the case. This unfairly puts a huge, and we believe unconstitutional, burden on the client to pay in advance for services they might not need. In fact we undertook on our own to challenge this practice all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which refused to hear the case. Darnyl Parker v. United States, 127 S.Ct. 456, 166 L.Ed.2d 325 (2006). Nevertheless, in our federal district, it is the policy of the judges that defense counsel not be allowed to appear in a case unless "fully retained" for whatever events might occur. Accordingly, more than we would like, we need to make secure arrangements at the outset for the payment of fees.
In appeals and post-conviction matters, we will often charge one fee to evaluate the case, before deciding to accept the matter, which would involve another fee arrangement.
A discussion of the fee, and the individual billing and payment program will normally occur at the first meeting, but questions covering the fee are welcomed at any time.
For further information on fee arrangements and the lawyer-client relationship, see the two documents, "Statement of Client's Rights" and "Statement of Client's Responsibilities" which were approved by the Administrative Board of the Courts.
Statement of Client's Rights (As adopted by the Administrative Board of the Courts) You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in your lawyer's office.
- You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to withdraw from the attorney- client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you up to the point of discharge).
- You are entitled to your lawyer's independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.
- You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain at the outset how the fee will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory.
- You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have your telephone calls returned promptly.
- You are entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter.
- You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, including whether or not to settle your matter (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).
- You have the right to privacy in your dealings with your lawyer and to have your secrets and confidences preserved to the extent permitted by law.
- You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.
- You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.
Statement of Client's Responsibilities
(As adopted by the Administrative Board of the Courts) Reciprocal trust, courtesy and respect are the hallmarks of the attorneyclient relationship. Within that relationship, the client looks to the attorney for expertise, education, sound judgment, protection, advocacy and representation. These expectations can be achieved only if the client fulfills the following responsibilities:
- The client is expected to treat the lawyer and the lawyer's staff with courtesy and consideration.
- The client's relationship with the lawyer must be one of complete candor and the lawyer must be apprised of all facts or circumstances of the matter being handled by the lawyer even if the client believes that those facts may be detrimental to the client's cause or unflattering to the client.
- The client must honor the fee arrangement as agreed to with the lawyer, in accordance with law.
- All bills for services rendered which are tendered to the client pursuant to the agreed upon fee arrangement should be paid promptly.
- The client may withdraw from the attorney-client relationship, subject to financial commitments under the agreed to fee arrangement, and, in certain circumstances, subject to court approval.
- Although the client should expect that his or her correspondence, telephone calls and other communications will be answered within a reasonable time frame, the client should recognize that the lawyer has other clients equally demanding of the lawyer's time and attention.
- The client should maintain contact with the lawyer, promptly notify the lawyer of any change in telephone number or address and respond promptly to a request by the lawyer for information and cooperation.
- The client must realize that the lawyer need respect only legitimate objectives of the client and that the lawyer will not advocate or propose positions which are unprofessional or contrary to law or the Lawyer's Code of Professional responsibility.
- The lawyer may be unable to accept a case if the lawyer has previous professional commitments which will result in inadequate time being available for the proper representation of a new client.
- A lawyer is under no obligation to accept a client if the lawyer determines that the cause of the client is without merit, a conflict of interest would exist or that a suitable working relationship with the client is not likely.