Every Penny You Get Matters.
Our lawyers meet with every client from day one and fully explain costs and fees. Many local lawyers even send non-lawyers to initial client meetings who cannot and will not address the terms of the contract in detail.
We never charge anything up front on personal injury and wrongful death cases and keep costs low on criminal defense and family law cases. We do not charge you for every fax, every piece of paper, every long distance call or pass on our firm’s overhead bills to you. We are not Office Depot and aren’t in the business of selling paper.
Unfortunately, many of the same lawyers also add exorbitant costs or costly attorney fee agreement provisions and take advantage of a client’s trust in their time of need. Most people do not realize this until the end of the case when the final bill comes.
Here are some of the costs that we often see in cases involving some of the lawyers who pass on everything they can to the client.
In the past, we have seen a big advertising firm charge potential clients for mileage TO the sign-up appointment. They want every nickel and dime they can get even before you ever sign an agreement. Does a taxi start the meter before it gets to you? Of course not. Before you ever agree to pay them for their costs, they are back charging you for their gas.
Unfair Administrative Fees and File Opening Charges
Many lawyers charge you to “open” your file or for “admin” fees. Why are you paying their overhead on top of their fees? This lawyer also apparently charged for background checks at the time the client signed up. Even if they got the client’s consent, we wonder why so much gets passed on to the client? Why start the client indebted to the lawyer?
According to this article, one firm had to pay over $100,000 back to clients based on unexplained fees.
Unfair Correspondence and Photocopy Costs
Some lawyers charge for every page they print on your case. This lawyer even charged the client to send the client a “thank you” letter and a welcome packet. Sure, it is only $1.10, but it adds up and it is your money. We shouldn’t bill you to say thank you. Not billing you like that is our way of saying thank you.
You will also notice that lawyer shipped items back and forth between his offices and charged his client for exorbitant federal express charges amounting to hundreds of dollars.
Meanwhile, this firm charges for an “in house courier” and for scanning. So, if you brought this firm any records, they will get you for every time they scan or copy them.
Unfair Faxes, Postage, Etc., Costs
Here is a lawyer who basically only got a case to the point of an unsuccessful demand letter. He passed on a bill for every page, every fax, and postage.
Unfair Legal Research Charges
Lawyers pay a monthly flat rate for research. Yet many lawyers pass on the cost of that research (in addition to the lawyer’s time). For some firms, this is a source of profit, as a firm will only pay a few hundred dollars and can bill out much more. How is this fair? Why are you paying for potentially more than the firm’s overhead? Here is one example of a competitor’s charges for research:
Unfair Travel and Entertainment Expenses
If your attorney is traveling on your behalf, hold him or her to the same standards you would hold yourself when traveling for business. Insist on a complete breakdown of travel charges—air and ground transportation, hotel and meal expenses. Unless you’ve agreed ahead of time, you shouldn’t pay for a first-class or business-class seat for your lawyer. Make it clear in advance what you will not pay for. As you see, this lawyer charged his client over $10,000 for one trip because he or she stayed at the Four Seasons and took a chartered plane and billed it back to the client.
Interest on Every Stamp and Copy
Some firms also charge compounding interest on copies, stamps and the like. That’s right, you are paying them interest on their overhead. In many times, they also are too busy to work on your file, so their delay is financially benefiting them as well.
Unfair Attorneys’ Fees
An attorney cannot impose a penalty upon the client because the client desires to discharge the lawyer. The Florida Bar has said that there is an overriding need to allow clients the freedom to substitute attorneys without economic penalty as a means of accomplishing the broad objective of fostering public confidence in the legal profession. See The Florida Bar v. Doe, 550 So. 2d 1111 (Fla. 1989) and see also Florida Bar v. Hollander, 607 So. 2d 412 (Fla. 1992), where an attorney received probation and a public reprimand for entering into a contract with his client providing that the client would immediately pay the attorney for all services rendered in the event of discharge or withdrawal, and also providing that the attorney would remain entitled to a share of any recovery by the client.
This contractual provision of a lawyer we recently received on a case we were asked to take over does just that:
A client enters into a contingency agreement, paying nothing up front. Agreements like this would force the client to keep the lawyer and many clients could not afford to fire the lawyer. It’s unfair.
Retainers / Upfront fees
Some lawyers also require clients to pay costs or a retainer up front. This is not unethical, but should be explained in full as not all lawyers make the client pay anything unless and until there is a recovery. Many agreements are also confusing, like this one:
Choose your lawyer wisely and do not choose a lawyer who refuses to sit down with you and explain what you will owe in the end. It may cost you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.