The legal bill is one of the greatest sources of disputes between attorneys and their clients. People are often surprised by the amount they are charged for legal services. However, because they are intimidated, or because disputing the bill seems like a hassle, they simply pay it. However, there are a few options you have if you are concerned about the amount you have been charged.
Your first step should be to simply explain your concerns to your lawyer. While this might be a somewhat uncomfortable conversation, you may save yourself from greater unpleasantness down the road. For instance, you may find out that you misunderstood the agreement, or that your case was more complicated than you had thought. On the other hand, your attorney might realize that a mistake was made on the bill. Here are some that may determine whether you have been charged reasonable attorney fees:
- The type of case
- The difficulty of the case
- Whether the case prevented the attorney from pursuing other work
- The experience of the attorney
- The time and labor the case required
- Other costs, such as hiring experts or court fees.
If discussing your bill does not resolve the problem, a good option to consider is fee arbitration. Under fee arbitration, a neutral third-party will hear your side and your lawyer’s side of the story, and then decide what a fair price is for the legal services you received. Some states, such as California, New Jersey, and Washington D.C., require mandatory fee arbitration if you have a dispute with your lawyer concerning the bill. Fee arbitration is a great low cost, easy way to resolve billing disputes.
There are a few states that do not offer fee arbitration. Also, in many of the states where it is offered, a lawyer can choose not to participate. In these instances, a lawsuit might be your only option. However, keep in mind that the costs and time associated with a new lawsuit may outweigh the amount you believe you have been overbilled.
If you are unable to resolve your bill with your lawyer, you should consider speaking with another lawyer to help you understand and navigate the arbitration or potential litigation process. An experienced attorney can explain your rights and the best options for you.