Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of searching for a lawyer is the lack of transparency over fees and retainers. The vast majority of lawyers refuse to publish their hourly rates and retainer fees. In my view, this practice is a disservice to lawyer and client alike. Clients are in the dark about a critical aspect of their decision making process and lawyers are getting calls from potential clients who cannot afford their rates. Everyone’s time is wasted. I prefer openness.
The Initial Consultation
I charge a flat $160.00 fee for a one hour consultation. Why do I charge for a consultation when some of my peers offer free consultations? Because I value my time. Most of the better lawyers in town charge for consultations. The reason is simple. Spending significant time during the day offering free legal advice is time I can’t spend servicing my paying clients. Moreover, you will find that in many offices “free consultation” means a fifteen minute meeting with a paralegal or junior attorney, not the lead lawyer. When you schedule a consultation with me, you meet with me for a full hour.
My billing rate is $300/hr. The stakes are high in family law and lawyers are like anything else–you get what you pay for. If you can afford a quality lawyer, it is worth the investment.
When evaluating rates, it is important to know that rates are not necessarily a reliable indicator of what your case will ultimately cost. For example, lawyers with low rates might simply bill more time to your case than a lawyer with higher rates. Another factor to consider is the lawyer’s overhead–associates, paralegals, support staff, office space, etc. The paralegals and associates also have hourly rates that will be charged to your case. Do you think a lawyer with high overhead is more or less likely to bill you efficiently and responsibly? As I have noted, I deliberately keep my overhead low so I can deliver better value to my clients. I am cognizant of my clients’ sensitivity to cost and bill accordingly. I don’t rack up fees on non-essential research tasks, unnecessary meetings, “reviewing” your case file for the fifth time, or any of the other bill-padding gimmicks employed by more traditional firms with significant overhead.
Before I begin your case, I will require an initial retainer and a signed fee contract. My retainer typically starts at $5,000. Factors influencing the size of the retainer include: (1) the level of conflict between the parties; (2) the likelihood of multiple court hearings; (3) the size of the community estate; and (4) the opposing lawyer. Once your retainer is deposited into my trust account, I bill against it at my hourly rate. If your case ends up costing less than your initial retainer, then the unused portion of your retainer will be refunded to you.