Fees & Costs
The expense associated with hiring an attorney is often an issue of major concern to a prospective client. Our firm believes in having candid, detailed, written agreements with all of our clients to minimize any confusion surrounding this sensitive area of the attorney-client relationship. We also offer several options for retaining an attorney on terms that suit your individual needs.
Knowing about the types of fee arrangements available will help you feel more comfortable as you work through this step in the process of hiring an attorney.
1. Flat Fee
In a Flat Fee arrangement, the firm will charge a specific total fee for your case. Photocopying, document preparation, and other out-of-pocket expenses (with the exception of filing fees or service of process fees) are covered by the flat fee. Your total bill under this kind of arrangement will be the flat fee plus filing and service of process fees. Flat fees are offered in simplified family law proceedings, transactions, will and trust preparation, most adoptions, and for most criminal matters. Flat fee arrangements are not available in civil litigation, including complex divorce or custody. Flat fee cases are typically paid in advance and the fees paid are earned on receipt.
2. Hourly Rate
This arrangement is the most common and generally the best understood. Under this arrangement, the firm charges an hourly rate of typically $200.00 to $250.00 per hour, but the rate may be more or less depending on the case and your attorney's experience level. When any attorney with the firm works on your case, he or she charges you at that hourly rate in one-tenth of one hour increments. Costs (including copies, long distance and cellular telephone calls, and other "out of pocket" items) are billed in addition to the hourly rate. Hourly Rate arrangements are available in all types of cases, but are required for civil litigation cases that do not involve personal injury. Clients under Hourly Rate arrangements are required to pay an advance deposit which is held in trust to pay fees and costs as incurred. This deposit is typically $3,000.00, but may be reduced or increased based on the anticipated complexity of the case. Since the advance is held for the client in trust, any money still held under that trust at the conclusion of the case is refunded to the client. It is your money until it is earned by the firm.
3. Contingency Fee
A contingency fee is one paid only if you prevail and recover money in your case. If we cannot collect money for you, we do not earn any fees, although in some instances you may be required to pay expenses incurred on your behalf. The contingency fee percentage varies under the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and, in some cases, Florida Statutes. Fees are calculated as a percentage of gross recovery before expenses. Contingency fee arrangements are reserved for personal injury cases, accident claims, or other cases where a sufficient amount of money is in contention to justify the firm's risk in taking the case.
4. Referral Fee
On occasion, we may refer you to another attorney who specializes in a particular area of law. We may receive a portion of the total fee you pay that attorney for the case. Your fees can only be split if you know about and approve the arrangement, and the total fee paid to us and the attorney we refer you to is reasonable. A referral fee cannot increase the total fee you pay for the services you receive.
No matter which fee structure we may agree upon, the specifics will be provided to you in writing, and you and an attorney with the firm will sign an agreement that clearly shows the fee arrangement.
In addition to a variety of fee arrangements, we offer clients several options for making payments for legal services and costs, including cash, check, and most major credit cards. Contingency cases are paid upon recovery through our firm's trust account.
Clients can play a major role in keeping their fees and costs more manageable. Here is a short list of steps you can take to reduce fees throughout the course of your representation.
1. Prepare for Meetings: When we ask you to come in and confer with our attorneys, come prepared with all of the necessary information and papers. Think about your circumstances and gather the information your attorney will need. Write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of other people involved in the case. Write down any important events or facts you want us to be aware of. Bring all relevant papers such as contracts, letters, court notices, or leases. The more work you do to prepare this kind of information, the less time we will spend finding it.
2. Answer Our Questions Fully: With very few exceptions, everything you tell us as your attorneys - even in consultation - is confidential. Pay close attention to the questions we ask and give complete and honest answers. If you are not sure if something is relevant, ask us. If you share all of the facts with us, you will save us the time spent later on further investigation or misdirected case development. As a general rule, it's better to tell us more than we need to know than less than we need to know.
3. Tell Us If Things Change: You are a primary source of information about your case and we act first based on the information you provide. If something happens or if you find out new information which may affect your case, tell us immediately. Changes in your circumstances will likely lead us to change how we handle your case. Telling us as soon as you know will save time and money, and will prevent us from heading in the wrong direction with your case.
4. Examine Your Bill: Our firm regularly sends statements to clients that show services rendered and costs incurred. You should examine these statements. Question any items that you do not understand or that are not covered in your fee agreement.
5. Tell Us About Your Financial Situation: If you have extremely limited funds, discuss the situation with us. We have various payment options under all of our available fee arrangements, and in some cases you may be eligible for pro bono representation with our firm. If you are unable to pay your bill, it is best to tell us sooner than later. We are always happy to assist you with a referral if the cost of your case exceeds your willingness or ability to pay.
By keeping these tips in mind throughout your relationship with our firm, you can ensure that our work for you will remain efficient, effective, and productive toward your goals.