Minimum Case Fees- My lawyer quoted a price of $3000 to $6000 for a court case. It is a minimal case, and we have only been to court for the temporary papers. I am looking at a bill from him that shows about $2000 more than that. I am being told by his secretary that the $2000 retainer and also the $2000 minimum case fee do not go toward the cost of the case, and that I need to take it up with him when he returns next week. Is it normal for me to pay $4000 just for him to represent me? This wasn't discussed up front.
2 Answers from Attorneys
That is a very strange fee arrangement but you need to look at your fee agreement to determine what you agreed to pay. It may be that you agreed to those terms.
I don't think the fee arrangement, as you've described it, is proper.
A "retainer" is a fee you pay the attorney just for the privilege of saying that he or she represents you. It is not credited to the overall fee in your matter. People talk about retainers all the time, but I don't know any attorney who actually charges a retainer like this. I know that some do--I just don't know who. Most of us charge a deposit, incorrectly call it a retainer, and credit it to your overall fee in the matter. It's possible your attorney charges a true retainer so I'd read the fee agreement carefully to make sure.
The minimum fee MUST be credited to your overall fee in the matter. There is case law and ethics opinions on that.
Most importantly, however, is that if you are already this annoyed by your attorney, you need to move on to another one. It may not be your attorney's fault, it may not be your fault, but there is clearly a disconnect between you and my observation is that these relationships do not get better with time.
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