Attorney Fee Agreements
In you first meeting with your attorney, you should ask the attorney what his or her fees will be and how the fees must be paid. The fee agreement will explain the services the attorney will provide you, the attorney’s fee and the fee arrangement. The agreement will also specify the other costs and how they must be handled. When you are discussing the attorney fee with the attorney, you should discuss the following:
Fee Arrangement: How will you be billed? Is the fee an hourly fee or a contingent fee or do you have to pay a retainer fee?
Permissible Cost: What are the costs that you have to bear? What about copying charges? What is the cost per page? Will you be charged for electronic research? You should get a confirmation from the attorney as to who pays what cost and the rate?
Fees: How much will the attorney charge you? While it may not be possible for the attorney to provide you with an accurate estimate of the time he or she has to spend on your case, he or she can give you a rough estimate of how much it will cost you.
Frequency: How often will you have to pay and what happens if you are late in making the payments? Ideally the bill should be an itemized bill. If you have a contingency fee agreement, find out if how often you have to pay the costs?
Basic Charges: If you have an hourly billing arrangement, you should find out what the minimum payment will be. You must also find out whether the attorney will charge you for one hour if he or she has worked only for 40 minutes or will you be charged only for 40 minutes? Find out if you will also be charged for the work done by the attorney’s assistants and paralegals.
Control: Do you have any control over the fees and expenses? Will the attorney notify you if your fees and expenses have reached a certain amount? Do you want the attorney to notify you when your fees and expenses reach a certain amount before proceeding further?
Make a note of everything you discuss with the attorney. Based on your discussions, you can have the attorney provide you with a written fee agreement.
Some attorneys use pre-printed fee agreements. If the agreement does not include any of the terms you discussed with the attorneys, ask him or her to include that in the agreement. The agreement should specifically state what has been agreed between the two of you.