I feel like my lawyer is overcharging me. How do I best handle this?

QUESTION:

I really like my lawyer. She is excellent, and the law firm is well respected. That said, I feel like my lawyer is overcharging me for the work done? How do I best handle this? I don’t want to ruin our relationship.

ANSWER:

Ethan Stone

Ethan Stone

by Ethan Stone, Stone Business Law

My first inclination is to tell you to pay happily. Lawyers are worth every penny they charge. They deserve to be paid in full and on time!

That’s not very helpful, however.

So speaking as a lawyer (and not yours), I think the first thing you need to keep in mind is that if you like your lawyer and the service you’re getting, you don’t want to do anything that will make you a “problem client.” We try to give our best work to every client, of course, but we’re human and we’re under economic pressure to collect our bills. So if your lawyer starts thinking of you as a client who is constantly griping, haggling and delaying payment, that might unconsciously affect the relationship and possibly even the work in ways you should try to avoid.

So how do you deal with the problem without becoming a “problem client.” That depends to some extent on why you think the charge is too high. I’m assuming, since you say you like the lawyer, that you don’t think she’s padding her hours. And I’m also assuming you don’t have any kind of “flat fee” arrangements with her. So it probably boils down to a feeling that too many lawyers are spending too many hours to do work that should take less.

If that’s the nature of the problem, the best way to deal with it is to call the lawyer, tell her that your legal expenses have been running higher than your budget, and ask if you can talk to her about ways you might be able to streamline things. The point is not to accuse her of charging you too much or to get into a fight about hours already recorded. That will make her annoyed or defensive. Rather, try to get her thinking about ways to help you get things under control. She knows better than you do what’s going on and why, so she’s in a better position to come up with effective ways to control the hours. When you put your heads together, for example, you might find that the lawyers have been doing things for you that you could really do yourself, just to try and be helpful (or because you asked them to without thinking through how much it would cost).

Bear in mind that once your lawyer and her colleagues enter hours into the firm’s billing system, they show up as accounts receivable on the firm’s finances. So her partners will see it if you force her to write down lots of hours that have already been booked. At best, that will annoy her. At worst, it could be a serious internal problem for her. So if I were you, I would pay your most current bill in full right before you have the conversation about getting things under control (again, assuming you don’t think you were actually billed in error or for work that shouldn’t have been done at all). That will clearly signal that you’re looking for help in managing legal costs, not trying to get retroactive discounts on work already done.

I hope this helps. Legal work always costs more than you think it should (that’s how I feel when I’m the client, anyway), but there should be ways to keep it within acceptable limits.

Comments & Advice:
  1. GAKE JUNIOR IN GLASS CASTLE says:

    Ide like to know how a lawyer charges any money with this no win no fee rubbish. I am out of pocket over 1 and a half million dollars and have just been offered a 110K settlement and they want part of that. ARE YOU FRIGGING KIDDING? NO WAY I WONT ACCEPT THE SETTLEMENT. ILL LET WORKCOVER USE IT ALL WHILE IM IN THEIR CARE AND BE WHERE IM AT AT THE END OF IT. THEIVING FOLS.

  2. Steve says:

    Gake Junior in Glass Castle-

    Take a look at this site, they may be able to help.

    http://www.reviewbilling.com

  3. paul says:

    I have a claim dats gone to court they have asked for costs but my lawyer has asked for 2000 still .I tink I’m being ripped off

  4. Izzy says:

    Ethan Stone – If you were my Lawyer….
    You as a Lawyer have been employed by me to get a job done within an acceptable time and at reasonable costs. If you think I’ll become ‘a problem client’ by asking questions and querying costs it would be in the interests of the Lawyer to be completely transparent from the outset, (unless of course they have anything to hide) this would negate any cause for you to get ‘annoyed or defensive’. Your article suggests to me that you want your client to sit in a box and keep schtum.
    Remember, if anyone is dissatisfied with their costs, insist on an itemised bill and if necessary get them reviewed by the court by way of detailed assessment.

  5. Steve says:

    Hello,

    I posted earlier for Gake Junior, but looks like he is not the only one that thinks he is being taken advantage of with his lawyer bills. I was in the same spot as most of you, so we created http://www.reviewbilling.com. If your in the same position, visit our website, simply fill out the form or give us a call and let us review your legal bills for over-charging, bill padding and double billing. If we don’t find any over-charging, at least you will have peace of mind.

    Steve
    http://www.reviewbilling.com

  6. Very comprehensive advice. When you think that your lawyer is overcharging you then you need to see what your contract says? What’s his hourly rate? Lawyers are very expensive and it can add up quickly as they charge for every little thing. Every time they pick up a piece of paper for your case they will charge you hundreds of dollars.

    I would recommend that you ask your lawyer for an itemized bill to find out exactly how all that money has been spent. You are entitled to an itemized bill. Once you get it you should get some idea of whether or not you are being overcharged.

  7. Shannon Stephenson says:

    My case is low income where the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office assisted with child support calculations and arrearage balance. My lawyer was hired AFTER to establish Contempt but only requested $6502 to my exhusband while billing me over $12,000 ~ I only needed him for Contempt, not to double bill me for duplicating the State’s work. I fired him when he DEMANDED my purge of $2890 towards HIS bill without asking for the $6502 legal award as a purge ~ instead it was added to the end of my arrearage which I pay $200 a month and $125 of that is just interest for my lawyer :( I guess my question is this: If my ex lawyer told the Courts $6502 was for working on Contempt, I MUST be paying all the rest for services already provided by the State for FREE… Thank you in advance! Shannon

  8. Shannon Stephenson says:

    I requested my entire file on 1/12/15 and Motion to Compel on 3/12/15 and STILL don’t have it, nor a detailed billing as requested in those Motions :(

  9. putik says:

    Lawyer commy pinko scumm…

  10. Davey Jones says:

    My lawyer played on the coat tails of my Co-defendant. He said it would cost 70K and 70K as a contingency with the unused portion returned. The trial is completed and I received a bill for 140K.

    Then my homeowners insurance finially kicked-in. Then I was presented with a bill of 350K with a request to submit it to the Insurance Co. Concidering the implication,could this be considered an act of fraud by the Insurance Commissioner.

  11. Susie says:

    My attorney has been paid $20,000 since April 2014. I received half of my requested support and nothing has developed since. Now he is requesting me to research for receipts and home improvement cost in order that I obtain half of these cost. He is requesting another three thousand and I don’t have a court date or any figures of what I will be entitled to from a 25 year long marriage. What is your suggestion? I also paid for a deposition that was grueling and cut short as the opposing attorney stated” this is getting nowhere”

  12. andrew silvestri says:

    A lawyer have me settement price then he reduces it what your comment

  13. Jeanette Bush says:

    My lawyer settled a case, part of the whole medical mesh fiasco. It is wrongful death as my mother passed away a year and a half ago. So she hired the lawyer and agreed to 40%… a settlement was reached recently and they are finalizing amounts. I was asked to now sign and agree to 40% of gross and all costs and expenses. It seems fishy to me to add this now. They first told me they wanted me to sign to make sure they connected wrongful death to case. I signed affidavit for that months ago. I asked specific questions prior to reading the emailed document. Once I read it, it didn’t match up to what they’ve said. My family still waits to bury my mother and move on, and yet I want to be smart too.How can I know they aren’t just trying to take advantage?

  14. Angry client says:

    I had attorney by the name of Gina Aguirre in West Covina CA I hired her to handle my divorce and child support boy did she rip me off. A year later still haven’t seen a judge but yet I owe her $14000 and half of the bills are emails. This lawyer did nothing for me. I am a single mom and she took advantage of me. She was so unprofessional telling me my case wasn’t urgent who says that charging $300 he. Do not hire her anyone

  15. steve says:

    Ethan…really? dont say anything just shut up and take it? All lawyers have your best interests in mind? scuse me?… but…did u hit ur head? were you involved in an accident? You’ve never actually visited one did you? People remember the lawyers work for you not vise versa. Just like everyone else when you find your too far in and cant change lawyers without great expense you have to just finish it. A lawyer streamlining payments? lol oh Ethan ur killin me! A lawyer taking payments for services already rendered?! wow what planet does this firm reside on? Look peeps find the best you can and ride it out then if they breach laws and / or contracts…hammer them hard! BBB and the BAR are always interested in this stuff so is the Office of Civil Rights. Document your days with them keep all correspondence let em hang themselves. Also you would be surprised how many firms out there that would LOVE to take a case where impropriety of another firm is involved….ya wanna see lawyers at their worst? watch what they do to each other…I did and it was awesome!

  16. Catherine Bannister says:

    I agree with so many the no win no fee BS after using shine i over 3 years i was asked to come in only 4 times they asked me to email evidence , keep receipts, a diary list goes on they didnt win how ever the other side paid 77 000 to me but out of that i had to pay for the operation i had to pay medi through 3 years and more came out of that i had to pay centrelink and others i got 6500 out of all of it.. you cant tell me shine took a huge chunk im so angry they take advantage of you so dont go to shine

Make Your Comment: