In July 2009, a police officer was investigating me for a crime in southern California. I spoke to the police officer who wanted me to come down to swab my mouth for the crime. I decided to hire a lawyer, who made a call or two to the police officer, and accompanied me to the police station where the police officer swabbed my mouth. At that point I never heard back from the police officer on the charges, nor did my attorney.
I recently heard about a lot of attorneys getting in trouble for charging incredibly high fees for doing next to nothing. I paid this lawyer $5,000 for him to make a call or two (which got no further than when I did it) and to accompany me to the police station. I did not sign any contract, either. I just paid the $5,000 from my credit card. Is this an unconcionable fee? I want to see if there is any way of getting some or all of this back. Is there a legal argument? An ethical argument? Should I reach out to the attorney? Is there a statute of limitations issue here? Any advice is greatly appreciated.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Finally someone posted a question that belongs in this category!
An attorney fee agreement in which it is reasonably foreseeable that the total expense to a client, including attorney's fees, exceeds $1,000, must be in writing. (Bus. & Prof. Code, sect. 6148, subd. (a).) Failure to comply by the attorney makes the oral agreement voidable, at the election of the client. (Bus. & Prof. Code,sect. 6148, subd. (c).) When the agreement is found to be void, the attorney may only collect a reasonable fee.
There are different time limits that govern your situation. The State Bar can handle complaints against attorneys for conduct within the past five (5) years.
An action on an oral contract must be brought within (2) years. But you have a unique situation, in that the oral contract is invalid. You may be able to operate under other statutes of limitation, for obtaining restitution.
There are other rules that apply, and I suggest you speak at length with an attorney on this matter.