Fees & Costs

Among the most important value we provide is finding creative solutions to the high cost of legal services. We use an array of options for structuring fee and payment arrangements to be as cost effective as possible for our clients.

Value And Cost-Effectiveness

Value is defined by a client's priorities. Effectiveness is measured by the degree to which a client's goals are fulfilled. Cost-effectiveness does not refer to "cheap" or "less expensive" services. Cost-effectiveness refers to commitment of a client's resources to a client's most important and realistically achievable goals within the limits of a client's financial resources. It is important to note that cost effectiveness requires both initial and ongoing assessment of client goals and expectations, some of which may change during an engagement.

Sometimes, clients have goals that may not be legally possible to achieve or that are only marginally realistic. In contested matters, the outcome of a dispute may depend on credibility of witnesses, strength of corroborative evidence or the predilections and biases of a court or jury. It is our goal to help a client understand the risks and uncertainty of the goals and to devise approaches and strategies that minimize risk and maximize achievement of realistic goals.

The Hourly Rate Myth

We frequently find that potential clients will "shop" for lawyers by comparing hourly rates. This practice assumes that services provided by lawyers have standard time units for the delivery of services. Similarly, some law firms charge very high rates to portray an image of excellence and experience as a marketing tool or as a reflection of ego or the desire to maximize revenue.

Although comparative hourly rates will affect the cost, the primary determinant of the cost of services is the scope of the work provided by the attorney and the collaborative focus of both attorney and client on cost effectiveness. Thus, a lower hourly rate that is charged for unneeded services, ineffective approaches, or inefficient techniques results in a higher cost than the higher hourly rate that is charged for effective efforts to achieve realistic goals.

The Initial Attorney Interview

Most matters start with an initial interview by the client of the attorney and the firm to determine if there is a comfortable and confident working relationship. In this interview we do not provide services or advice. The interview is primarily intended to determine whether we will be able to help or assist a client with their matter or whether to refer the client elsewhere. In the interview we focus on the client's goals and immediate legal needs and make an assessment of whether we can help the client and what fee arrangement options are available. The initial interview normally takes up to 30 minutes, but may take longer in complex matters or contested litigation cases.

The initial interview is not an initial assessment of the strengths or weaknesses of a client's case or advice about a client's best interest. If such matters are covered in part or spent on the actual provision of services the services may be billed in part if the client retains us for services. Usually, an assessment of the case becomes part of the initial action plan after retention.

The Written Fee Agreement

Except for certain matters, lawyers are required to have written fee agreements that define the scope of services. We try to make our fee agreement a comprehensive guide that will answer most questions that a client has about our services.

Optional Fee Arrangements

Fees Established By Law or by Court Review and Determination

In probate cases fees are established by statute for "ordinary" services and set as a percentage of the appraised value of the estate. Additional fees for "extraordinary" services are submitted to the court for approval.

Value based Fixed Fees

Some of our services are provided on a fixed fee that is based on the value to the client of the service, not the amount of time involved. These fees are most frequent in planning, consultation, document preparation and review, and some transactions.

Result Based Bonus or Contingency Fees

In some cases that result in the payment of money to the client, it may be possible or appropriate to use a reduced hourly rate combined with a bonus based as a percentage of a result achieved. In a "pure" contingency arrangement where there is no fee for hourly services and a higher hourly percentage to be paid from collected results is used.

Hourly Time Charges

Hourly time charges are based on the amount of time spent on a client matter multiplied by an hourly rate for the service. Our firm bases hourly rates charged for specific services on the level of experience of the attorney or paralegal, the degree of skill required and the complexity or importance of the service provided. Our fee agreements contain a range of hourly rates for each timekeeper and services are charged within or below those ranges depending on the above factors.

Combination Arrangements

Sometimes we will combine a fixed fee for a defined scope of work even though other services are performed on an hourly basis in the same matter. Other services may be fixed with a cap on the number of hours covered by the fixed fee and additional charges on an hourly basis.

Reduced Rate Fee Arrangements - Sliding Scale Fee Arrangements

We are committed to providing affordable services for people of all means. We do use reduced hourly rate or fixed fee arrangements where the work is required but beyond the financial ability of the client to pay in full. These arrangements normally require discussion of a client's finances and a defined scope of services to which the arrangement will apply.

Payment Arrangements

Advance Payment Deposits-Retainers

Except in statutory fee or court supervised payment arrangements, we usually require advance payment deposits based on the estimated costs of work that is planned to be performed in the near future.

Deposits are usually made using credit cards or by check and are placed in a trust account. At the point of invoicing (usually monthly or weekly), funds from the trust account are applied to payment.

Payment Plan Arrangements

We will consider payment plan arrangements in some matters based on a client's disclosure of financial circumstances, available cash flow, and the anticipated scope of work involved. Payment plans usually carry an interest rate of 9.9% on the declining balance and a 1.25% per month late payment penalty charge or a fixed late payment penalty charge.