I Have a Dispute Concerning My Lawyer’s Fees

Lawyer’s fees can be a cause of disputes between attorneys and their clients. While these issues sometimes can be resolved informally, there are other situations in which you are unable to come to terms with your attorney about the money that you owe for his or her services. In these disputes, an attorney who specializes in legal malpractice may be the best person to advise and represent you.

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People may complain about lawyer’s fees because they did not know what to expect; how much their fees should have been, or even how to read their fee statements. When you disagree as to the amount of your attorney’s bill, and you can’t work it out with your lawyer, you may benefit from the advice of a qualified legal malpractice specialist in order to successfully resolve your dispute.

Lawyer’s Fees: Unreasonable Fees Prohibited
Attorneys are specifically prohibited from charging their clients unreasonable fees for their legal services. However, there is no dollar limit on the amount that an attorney may charge for his or her services. Also, what is unreasonable can differ widely from one state to another and even from one attorney to another. In general, the reasonableness of an attorney’s bills depends on different factors:
  • The time that it takes to complete your case
  • The difficulty of the services provided
  • The fees that other attorneys in the area charge for similar work
  • The amount of money at issue in your case

Lawyer’s Fees: How Are They Determined?
When you first met with your attorney, he or she should have thoroughly explained the fees that would be involved in your case. The amount of these fees would likely have differed according to the type of case being handled, as well as the difficulty of the subject matter. There are several types of different fee arrangements that you might have encountered:
  • Contingency fee agreements – Most often used in personal injury cases, contingency fee agreements require you to pay a certain percentage of whatever monetary award you receive in your case. A typically percentage is 33% of any funds that you are awarded. However, contingency fees are not allowed in criminal cases based on their outcome, or in divorce cases based on the amount of alimony awarded.
  • Flat fee agreements – This type of payment arrangement appears most often in criminal defense cases, where the attorney charges one set fee based on the type of case involved and the amount of time it will require of the attorney.
  • Hourly fee agreements – In many other types of cases, such as divorce actions, an attorney tends to charge a set hourly rate.

Lawyer’s Fees: Paying a Retainer
Many attorneys will require you to pay a retainer before they start work on your case. A retainer is a specific sum of money that you pay upfront. In some cases, a retainer is a non-refundable fee that you pay in order to have an attorney available to handle your case. In other cases, a retainer is an advance payment for the work that the attorney will do on your case. Once the attorney performs the work, he or she will take payment from your retainer, and refund any remaining amount at the end of your case.

When Lawyer’s Fees Are in Dispute: Steps to Take
If you disagree with the amount of your bill from your lawyer, you should first try and discuss the matter with your attorney personally. There may have been an error made on your bill, or you simply may need an explanation of what all of the charges represent. If you are unable to informally resolve the matter to your satisfaction, however, you may need to turn to another attorney specializing in this area of the law for help.

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The Deckard Law Firm provides legal services focusing on trust disputes, legal malpractice, and civil litigation to clients in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale, California. Nothing on this website is intended to serve as legal advice in your case, but is provided for discussion purposes only. We cannot guarantee the outcome or results of your case or any case.


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