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. Gilberto Ayala says:

    My daughter had an accident almost 3 years ago, and our attorney was gonna charge us ,33% for his service, he advised us to take our daughter to get some injections, each injections cost ovet $13,000 , and because of the price of each of them, he recommended not to take them
    any more, aftert that he advised us to take the case to court
    for better compensation, three months later he called us and told us that the insurance offer us $11190,000 than from that, we had to pay him for his service , then, called us back saying ,that adjuster , offer us less than $45,000,, free from attorney’s fee, but from my daughter’s money ($45k) she has to pay medical bills,, but hus percentage increased , from 33% to 45% , just to take it to court, but my daughter’s value went down, besides that, he wants to close the case, or if the case continues and goes to court he is going to charge us more money per hour.besides what he is getting, .
    is this ok, and what can we do ? Please someone advice us.
    thank you.

  2. Dalton says:

    For anyone who feels they might’ve been overcharged – I recommend checking out reviewbilling.com. They’re super helpful and will do an initial analysis of your bill for free.

  3. alan says:

    I’m a CPA who, like lawyers, often charges by the hour. I have also worked extensively in the legal profession as a forensic accountant and expert witness. The person who submitted this question is someone who, in locker room language, is a pussy. He or she sounds like s/he works for the lawyer instead of the other way around.

    Many lawyers (and CPAs) do bill pad. Not all, but many. When it comes to bill padding, I learned at the feet of a master; he was both an attorney and CPA. He taught me that if you are going to do it, make sure the invoice is detailed since detail has the ring of truth. For example, never put “2 hour meeting”. Put 1.5 hour meeting with Tom, Dick and Harry to discuss proper techniques to pull your pud in the conference room.

    There are 1.2 million lawyers in the U.S. I would estimate that of the 1.2 million 40% do not know what they are doing, 40% do not care, and 20% are competent and do care. So fire your lawyer and go find the one in five who will give you good service at a fair fee.

    Lawyers (and CPAs) are like wolves on the plains of Wyoming; some of them home in on the weak and unsophisticated. Once again, not all, but many. Be aware and beware.

  4. gregg says:

    Solicitors are very highly regulated and they are not allowed to overcharge you for their services. If they have, the solicitor has breached the rules and you may not have to pay their bill. Visit
    http://www.challengemysolicitor.com

  5. Edwado Moraia says:

    Represent yourself.

  6. Ethan Stone…You’re a complete ass hole of a lawyer. You want to rip the client off and don’t ask questions. You are a wanker!

    An itemised Bill for a lawyers work would be the answer..no harm no foul..The client works for the lawyer and that’s the bottom line.
    If the lawyer doesn’t like it…fire him/her!!

  7. Ernest says:

    I received a severe TBI right before going to court for parental responsibilities. My personal injury attorneys got me doctors to see and take care of me and get me better on a lien until I received my settlement. The main trusted doctor recommended an attorney for my parental responsibilities case that would take my case on a lien as well since I needed representation since my severe brain injury. The parental responsibilities case was over in less then six months and my bill has reached 100k and is still increasing because my personal injury case hasn’t settled yet. I had no idea the lien had interest rates because the doctors lien doesn’t and my bill is still currently increasing. What can I do and how can I get some trusted help considering my circumstance. I never expected my parental responsibility case would reach 100k for the little work done. I think this is outrageous and I definitely feel taken advantage of due to my injury and circumstances!!!!

  8. tina erwin says:

    My lawyer sent me a statement at the first of the month it showed a balance of 1,009 dollars left on my account . when the case was done I had to ask for a final invoice on the second invoice all the prices were changed because there was no hearing date for custody the other party made an agreement so because it did not use up all my money on the books they went back and changed what they charged and sent a new invoice. I dont know if they forgot they sent me the first one or what they did but it is clearly overcharging me every thing was tripled in price on the second invoice

  9. Deborah says:

    I have proof that since November 27 2015 until February 2016 my husbands ex’s lawyer has been sending things to our lawyer that we have had to correct every time he sends something it’s wrong. changes have not been made, things were changed that were not supposed to have been changed for the past 4 months and have ended up costing us almost $4500 of charges we have been billed by our lawyer. The finalization of the documents were up to him to make and were supposed to have been done before Christmas and he went missing for almost 5 weeks where he wouldn’t return phone calls or emails. The 2 lines that were supposed to be changed November 27 in the documents were not changed and we had to pay our lawyer to keep telling him to change them. Our lawyer is not going to do anything but recommend we write him a letter. I want all of our money that we were charged from November 27 – Feb 16 back as it is money we would not have had to pay out if it were not for his negligence with the file. If we have to take this to the Law Society and file a grievance against him we will. Anyone else had this type of thing happen?

  10. Allan says:

    My lawyer charges me $96 to accept my payment, then I pay the $96, and then get another invoice for $96 to accept that payment.

    How can I get out of this perpetual billing cycle?

    Gotta love lawyers??

  11. Dan says:

    “Just keep your mouth shut and pay.”
    That’s rich. You think you are worth all the money?
    People are forced to retain lawyers because other lawyers created court rules and guidelines. The fact that you think you are worth that much money is a joke. I hired an attorney to defend an ex-business partner’s frivilous lawsuit and my well paid “attorney” sat with a perplexed look as I personally proceeded to punch holes in the claims.
    If it were up to me, I would have flipped her a ten spot and sent her on her way.

  12. Steve says:

    If you feel like you’re being overcharged by your attorney, visit our website and we will do brief analysis of your invoices/bills for free. If we find in our opinion that you are being overcharged, you have an option for us to do a full file report.

    If you have any questions visit our website and fill out the contact form or give us a call.

    http://www.reviewbilling.com

  13. Chris Hanly says:

    Check out Viewabill.com. Real time insight into what outside counsel is working on and costing you, at any time.

  14. rodeo says:

    This is a typical reply from a lawyer protecting a lawyer. In most part lawyers do good work and get paid well. There are some who are like used car dealers and will rip you off at the drop of a gavel. Over charging, doubling up hours on multiple client accounts are not uncommon. I suggest if you feel you are being overcharged, request an itemised schedule of their billing and don’t be ‘shy’ about it as this lawyer suggests. After all he’s only protecting the old boys club and you’re paying.

  15. Dstroll says:

    This guy Ethan stone is an asshole” problem client? How about problem lawyers that don’t answer ur phone calls for days 20k my lawyer did absolutely nothing for me divorce lawyers are blood sucking leeches w no hearts or morals and use children as weapons

  16. wayne says:

    I was recently asked to attened the police station regarding a suspected fraud case and asked a solicitor that has represented me in the past to help . He said that it would cost £800 + VAT to attended with me at the police station. The police cancelled after we had been waiting for over an hour. Then asked to re attend a week later . We did so an I was not charged and asked to help as a key witness and I have agreed .
    Since then I have been submitted with a bill from my solicitor for nearly £4,000.
    I questioned the bill, I requested a break down of the bill and it was mentioned that I was charged per hour .
    He said that it was in his terms and conditions that he sent out with the contract.
    This was something that I have never seen or signed as it was never agreed to being charged per hour if I was ever to have known his rate I would have declined his services, in the mean time I have paid the original amount agreed and he is demanding more.
    Can you please help as I have sat down and tried to resolve this.
    It was mentioned that as I didn’t sign or receive the contract that this will covered by the 2 day postal law and this will mean that it was accepted as signed , is this so ?

  17. Steve says:

    Think you’re being overcharged by you lawyer, give us a call or visit our website http://www.reviewbilling.com

  18. 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

  19. 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!

  20. 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

  21. 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?

  22. andrew silvestri says:

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

  23. 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”

Make Your Comment: