Serving your legal needs.
AREAS OF PRACTICE
The major area of practice for our firm is Criminal Defense, Adoptions, Family Law, Trusts and Estates and Business Law. The services of others in the law firm are available by way of assistance to us, in order to handle your case quickly and economically. Although one lawyer may generally have responsibility for the conduct of any negotiations or legal proceedings on your file (this is called "carriage" of your case), we will delegate, where appropriate, work to be done on your file to other staff members. The people we will be relying on will be the clerks and support staff. This will enable us to handle your case more quickly, in some instances, and more cheaply. The purpose of this work style is to ensure that your work is done as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible. That is what our clients want.
Our fees are based on the following elements:
(a) The time spent on your behalf and the service that is performed;
(b) The complexities of the issues and your potential emotional and monetary exposure;
(c) The results accomplished and the extent to which the expertise of this firm contributed to a successful outcome;
(d) The degree and type of resistance encountered; and
(e) The extent to which any work needs to be performed on an emergency basis.
None of these elements is capable of a precise arithmetic assessment, and no such assessment is attempted, except in a general way with respect to the time spent. A standard hourly rate is applied to convert the time into a monetary figure. Any amount that exceeds the number of hours multiplied by the standard rates is the result of the weighing of the other elements mentioned.
We charge standard hourly rates for the work done by the lawyers ($ 200.00) and our legal staff ($ 50.00) and for the time spent on your case. We keep records in our computer timekeeping system to the nearest one-tenth of an hour for all activity on your case, including conferences, telephone calls, voicemail, e-mail, preparing correspondence and memoranda, drafting documents, research, and travel time. Each hour billed to you is based on actual work done on your particular case. Our timekeeping software has a timer feature, and we are finding that our timekeeping for our clients is more precise and more detailed than ever.
Our absence from the office on your behalf is charged at the usual hourly rate. Travel time includes attending court, settlement conferences, meetings, or consultations on your behalf. We will minimize travel expenses and courthouse time, if any, whenever we are able. However, as you will be charged for our traveling time (in addition to the attorney fee), it may be worthwhile to consider whether this firm is desirable for you if your litigation is taking place in another community.
When the lawyers consult on your file (in person or electronically), you are billed for the time of the lawyers involved. Consultation between lawyers takes place to decide work assignments on larger matters, to delegate tasks, to determine strategy, and to consult on legal issues. This consultation is an important part of the progress of your case, and in many ways is the work we do for you.
If your appointment is for a consultation only, in order for you to receive advice on a limited number of issues or, for example, for a second opinion, you will be billed a flat rate consultation fee, payable on the conclusion of the consultation. The consultation is not meant to deal with your whole legal problem. These rates are reduced rates and apply only if the fee is paid at the time of the consultation. The rates are calculated on the basis of the average amount of time spent by the lawyers on consultations in the most recent year. The consultation rates do not apply if you retain the law firm to perform work on your behalf, nor do they apply if you return for a second meeting. In that case, you will be billed at our usual hourly rates. These are our usual consultation rates:
Mark J. Lang $ 50.00
It may be necessary for us to consult outside experts to assist in the presentation and preparation of your case. The two most obvious examples of this are health care professionals (for example, a physician, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist) or financial professionals (for example, an accountant, a business valuator, or an actuary for pension valuations).
It is to be understood that we are permitted to obtain this assistance for you, at prevailing rates, at our discretion. Generally, our clients deal directly with the expert and make payment arrangements with the expert personally. This direct contact also has the benefit of avoiding duplication and reducing cost.
Disbursements are out-of-pocket expenses covering such items as couriers, printing and photocopying ($ 0.05 per page), long-distance telephone calls, facsimile transmissions ($0.12 per page to send, $ 0.05 per page to receive), postage, court filing fees, parking (at court or at other meetings), paralegal services (to make filings at the court offices), and transcripts of examinations, and could include fees for accountants and other outside experts (if we incur those fees). These items are shown separately on our accounts, and are charged to you at cost, in addition to the attorney fee.
The firm uses an online service for legal research. This means that it is no longer necessary to physically go to a law library to do legal research in most of the cases that require it. As a result, the availability of this online service has reduced costs for our clients. Not all our cases need legal research. The disbursement cost of legal research done online is $ 10 per hour, charged to you as a disbursement, in addition to the lawyer's hourly fee for the time spent.
The retainer is an amount paid to our firm in trust, for deposit to your credit, on the understanding that it will be used to satisfy our accounts for legal services and disbursements at the time accounts are delivered. The retainer is a source of payment for your accounts. You are expected to provide and replace the retainer when requested, as it is spent, so that we continue to have enough money in trust to cover the work we have done and the next step that needs to be done. Until you provide us with a retainer or replace it when it is exhausted, we will not work on your file.
You are responsible for the fees and disbursements not covered by the initial or replacement retainer. Of course, any unused portion of the retainer will be refunded to you at the end of our work for you.
The retainer is not a flat fee or an estimate of the cost of your work. The amount of the retainer is arbitrary to some extent, and should not be taken as an estimate of the cost of the completion of the work in your particular case. At this point, before the issues are clarified, and before we know the degree of resistance to be offered, we cannot predict the amount of work to be done, nor the time needed to complete it.
COST OF LEGAL SERVICES
Clients usually want to know "what will this all cost?" That's a reasonable question. But it is not possible to accurately estimate costs in advance. Many important factors that influence the cost are unknown to us, and even outside our control, including the reaction and tactics of the other side, how many different issues there will be in your case, how much time it will take to resolve all the issues, how complicated the case is, new issues which may come up, and whether we can settle this case without going to court. Like other areas of law, the legal issues in your case may change during the time we work for you (new issues may arise, and existing issues may become more complex). We see it as our job to close your file as quickly and economically as possible, consistent with protecting your interests.
We prepare interim accounts on a regular basis, usually on the 10th and 25th of the month, for fees and disbursements. If your case is very active, particularly if we are in court for you, you may get accounts from us weekly. This is, in part, an effort to ensure that you have a good understanding of what the case is costing you at all times. For most people, the cost of the case will be an influencing factor in decision making about the next step to take and the kind of response to make to the other side; in our experience, it should be. The amount of fees on the interim accounts is usually based on time spent but, when appropriate, could include an additional charge based on the other elements referred to above. We accept payment of fees and disbursements by major credit card, and you may consider that as an alternative in settling your outstanding accounts with us or in providing or replacing the retainer.
The accounts are due to be paid when they are sent. If the account is not paid within 30 days, interest will be charged on the outstanding balance at the rate stated in the fee agreement signed by you.
PROGRESS OF YOUR CASE
We will keep you informed of all developments in your case. We forward to you copies of all relevant correspondence between lawyers, pleadings and any other court documents, and reports. We will send you copies of this material by e-mail, if possible, and if not, then we can send you paper copies of this material. It is important to keep this material, and it is to your advantage to maintain it in an organized format. If you need additional paper copies of correspondence or pleadings, we can make them available to you at our usual rates for printing and photocopying and any other work involved. We suggest you keep the correspon-dence in one file and the pleadings and other court documents in another file and keep all of the documents in chronological order.
ENDING OUR WORK FOR YOU
At any time, you may fire us by giving us written notice to stop all work on your behalf and paying any balance owing. If the law firm is shown on court documents as your lawyers, then it is not as simple as just telling us to stop all work on your behalf. The court records must be formally changed, in writing. Usually we can file a document that you sign, telling the court and the other side that we are no longer your lawyers.
Subject, always, to our obligation to ensure proper standards of professional conduct, we can also end the attorney-client relationship. If this should happen, we will do so in writing, and we will assist in the transfer of your file, if appropriate.
You should be aware of some of the circumstances that may cause us to end the relationship:
(a) we cannot get instructions from you;
(b) you lose confidence in our ability or advice;
(c) a conflict of interest arises;
(d) we cannot accept your instructions for ethical reasons;
(e) you mislead us in a material matter or you lie to us;
(f) the retainer has not been provided or replaced;
(g) our accounts remain unpaid for 30 days, and no mutually agreeable arrangements have been made.
If it is necessary for us to take legal steps either to end our representation of you or to collect our accounts, you will be charged for the time involved.
It is important for you to understand that the amount of money spent on legal fees in a case is directly related to the level of conflict in your case,\ and the way that conflict is resolved. It is the lawyer's job to resolve the dispute on your behalf and on your instructions. Responsible lawyers do not create disputes. Our job is to assist you in resolving a conflict, not in making it worse. You must have realistic expectations, however, about the impact the lawyer can have in a case with very high levels of conflict, whether those levels of conflict originate with adverse parties or with the lawyer representing adverse parties.
This document was originally written by Carole Curtis and originally appeared as a supplement to an article by her in LAWPRO Magazine “Dealing with difficult clients,” Spring 2004 issue. Both criminal defense law dui Scappoose Saint Helens