What Will This Cost?
If this is not the first question asked by a client, it is likely the first thought that a client has. Lawyer services are expensive, that's a fact of life. And that is why Taylor Legal works really hard to make sure you get the best value possible. We want our clients to know they received excellent services for a fair price.
The best value does not necessarily mean the cheapest. While many times an online form can suffice for a run-of-the-mill agreement, sometimes those services or products often cost more in the long run if not drafted correctly. (Katherine's years of business litigation experience showed her that most times, prevention is the best remedy for business disputes.)
While talking about money can be difficult, we want our clients to understand our fee structure and to ask questions when you are unsure.
How Do Lawyers Bill Fees to Clients?
Many lawyers charge a fixed or hourly fee for your first call or meeting where you both discuss the client's situation and determine (1) whether the lawyer can assist you, and (2) whether the client wishes to hire the lawyer for further work. Lawyers have various reasons for charging consultation fees. The consultations do, in fact, take time and many times legal advice is provided during the consultation.
At Taylor Legal, we typically do not charge a fee for an initial phone or in-person consultation if the true purpose of the initial consultation is for client and lawyer to get to know each other. Our reasoning is that the call or meeting is the best way for both client and lawyer to determine if the lawyer-client relationship will be a good fit. Sometimes, however, a potential client will ask us to provide legal advice at that first meeting. If the purpose of the meeting is for the client to receive legal advice or a legal plan of action, we will charge a preliminary consultation fee, but you will know that up front.
The primary reason why legal fees are so high is because lawyers have historically billed clients by the hour. Hourly rates vary considerably based on the years of experience, background, geographic area, type of work, and size of firm. (Rates for a large firm partner in a big city can be as high as $1000 per hour, while a partner in a smaller suburban firm may charge far less per hour.)
At Taylor Legal, our attorney hourly billing rates are between $325 and $345. We believe these rates are fair and reasonable based on each attorney's expertise and experience. We also believe these rates are in line with amounts charged by lawyers in our geographic area with similar experience.
A contingency fee is based on a percentage of the amount awarded in a case. If you win, both the client and the lawyer are paid. If you lose the case, the lawyer does not get a fee, but you will still have to pay expenses. This type of fee arrangement is usually only charged in personal injury cases, property damage cases, or other cases where a large amount of money is involved. Lawyers may also be prohibited from making contingency fee arrangements in certain kinds of cases such as criminal and child custody matters. Contingency fee arrangements are typically not available for divorce matters, if you are being sued, or if you are seeking general legal advice such as the purchase or sale of a business.
Taylor Legal's work does not include personal injury or property damage cases, and we rarely if ever charge on a contingency basis.
Flat (Fixed) Fees
This is a structure where a lawyer charges a specific, total fee for a stated scope of work. Historically, flat fees were offered only if the matter was relatively simple or routine such as for the drafting of a simple will or handling an uncontested divorce. More and more lawyers, however, charge flat fees for a variety of matters.
At Taylor Legal, we offer many of our business and transactional services at fixed fees. We know that clients need predictability when it comes to costs, so we try our best to arrive at a flat fee for certain work. Other work such as litigation or work that has many variables cannot be billed at fixed prices.
Written Billing Policy
We believe that it is best to share expectations early. That is why we provide a detailed written billing policy in all of our Legal Services Agreements explaining how you will be billed.
Our goal is to allow you to better understand and control your legal expenses, and help you utilize our services more efficiently.
Fee Advances (Retainers) and How It Benefits Our Clients
Taylor Legal collects an initial fee advance (retainer) from all new clients and for all new matters arising for existing clients. A fee advance is an amount held in our client trust account to cover your legal fees and expenses that will occur later. The funds, which belong to the client until earned, are held in a special IOLTA Trust Account on the client's behalf.
The fee advance is a vital part of our practice. It is how we ensure we are paid for our services.
The fee advance is also a benefit for our clients. As with most businesses, we have multiple projects competing for our attention. Your fee advance ensures your project receives our full attention, in the quickest time possible. Requiring a fee advance also reduces our losses from uncollected invoices. Controlling these losses allows us to continue to provide the best legal services without the higher hourly fees of other firms.
Finally, we have found that a fee advance often helps our clients appreciate the significance of their project or matter, which can help in moving projects forward towards completion, or in negotiating a quicker settlement when appropriate.