ATTORNEYS FEES- AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE
I have learned so much from working with lawyers from the client’s perspective. I recently received a very unpleasant surprise, and it isn’t the first time it has happened. I hire an attorney for a project. We come up with an estimated retainer. I deposit the money and off they go. Months later after the project is completed I get an invoice. Undoubtedly the invoice well exceeds our retainer and I am annoyed, angry and feel I was wrongfully over charged.
WHY? Lack of communication. Invoice early and often. That is how I know what is being done on my case and I have an expectation of how much my overall bill should cost. Yes, I understand that billing takes time and effort. However, from a client’s perspective, I want to know how you are spending my hard earned money and what you are doing on my project/case.
Additionally, tell me, the client, when it is clear to you that we will exceed our estimated budget/retainer. Let me know what to expect. I certainly understand that a legal budget is a moving target, subject to change with the wind or what you find while researching or what opposing counsel may do. If an attorney simply communicates early and often, I may not like the high legal fees, but at least I will expect them.
At Modern Law we practice family law. The client should have the ability to do a cost/benefit analysis of what we do as lawyers. For instance, the client should decide whether to file a motion to dismiss or simply respond to the untimely petition. The client should decide whether we depose the opposing party or do not. When I receive a notice of deposition for my client, he or she should be informed immediately that this will have an impact on their overall fees. As a client, we want some skin in the game. We want to be savvy shoppers. We want input and we want to know the impact of our decisions.
This then protects you the lawyer. When your client decides, “YES, file the motion to dismiss” he/she will not be surprised to see it on their invoice (hopefully next week) and will be much more likely to pay.
The world is changing! Client expectations are changing. Clients want communication, input and want to make decisions. Go with it and we will all be more successful as attorneys.