URGENT - Need Advice on Lawyer Fee

Updated on September 30, 2008
C.E. asks from Chicago, IL
9 answers

My friend is going through a rough custody battle - with her ex fitting every step of the way. Mediation was tried and did not work - he walked out. She has a great attorney - but at $400 an hour has blown through a $22,000+ retainer and is estimating conservatively that this could cost $30,000 more for a trial. A payment plan is not an option. My Friend insists that $400 per hour is the going rate for a good attorney in the Metro D.C. area but has exhausted all financial resources - friends and family came up with the $22,000. Can ANYONE tell me what the average going fee for a Family Law Attorney (a real bull dog) would cost in the Metro D.C. area? Law firms don't seem to post fees on their website. If anyone could recommend a great advocate and give an idea of cost even better. Thank you Mamas!

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T.C.

answers from Washington DC on

I'm an attorney in the DC metro area and while $400 may be a bit high, it's not too far off the mark, particularly for someone who is really good and a bulldog, which sounds like exactly what she needs

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L.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Here is a respectable firm in Tysons Corner who absolutely posts their fees on their website and are excellent! I recommend Phil Leiser or his wife Karen.

Leiser, Leiser & Hennessy, PLLC
8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 310
Vienna, VA 22182
(Tysons Corner)
Phone: ###-###-####
Fax: ###-###-####
http://www.leiserlaw.com

OUR FEES
All legal cases vary in their complexities, legal requirements, and required resources. Therefore, only an attorney can quote a fee for your case following an initial consultation.
HOURLY: For hourly-based cases the attorneys bill for the amount of time they spend on your case. Our attorneys’ billable rates start at $175 per hour and increase in increments up to $350 per hour. Certain tasks can be performed by paralegals to save you money. Our paralegal rates range from $100 to $150 per hour.

FLAT FEE: Some cases are quoted on a flat fee, meaning the client will pay a predetermined amount for us to complete the case and the cost will not go above that. We often offer payment plan options to allow you to pay over time. In some cases, a flat fee is charged for an initial court appearance with an additional fee required in the event of a subsequent court hearing.

Some of our flat fees are as follows:

• Uncontested Divorce (no-fault) $750
• Uncontested Divorce with agreed Child Support $1,000
• Uncontested Divorce with simple Property Division $1,000
• Uncontested Divorce with simple Property and Child Support $1,200
• Name Change Petition (not part of a divorce) $400
• Expungement of criminal record $750

Note: These legal fees do not include the costs associated with the case, such as court filing fees. These costs are usually very low.
CONTINGENCY: Certain types of cases are typically handled on a contingency basis, meaning that the lawyers get paid only if and when we collect money for you. This is usually the case in personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Because the firm is assuming a significant risk if we are unable to collect, these cases are screened carefully before we undertake representation.

If your case requires a different type of billing, the attorney can explain the options available for your type of case during the initial consultation.

All of our fees are subject to change without further notice on this website. Before hiring us, you will be quoted the expected legal fees for your case and will be given a written representation agreement detailing the fees and terms of representation.

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A.E.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi C.,

I'm am also in the middle of a cutody battle for my son. My lawyer is one of the best in the state of MD and is $350/hour. However, I know that his father and I wouldn't do well in mediation and that it's going to have to go to trial. If there are steps that she know won't work i.e. mediation, she should request that they not go forward with them.

Also, if she is trying to prove unfit, she should go with a P.I. (private investigator) and do the grunt work herself to put off any unecessary costs that are needed to prove his status. Just a couple of suggesstions. I hope this helps.
I hope, for the little ones sake, that this will all be over soon. Tell your friend to keep her head up.Prayer is her biggest weapon.
Good Luck and God Bless
A.

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N.C.

answers from Washington DC on

C. E - Your friend needs a good, reliable attorney who has some experience with the courts in the jurisdication in which she is living. $400 may seem excessive, but is actually a reasonable rate in the Metro DC area for an attorney. Your friend might be better served by sitting down with the attorney she currently has and who has all the background and done all the research on her case and explaining her financial situation. She needs to become aware of what the attorney charges are for and how s/he bills. Some attorneys bill in 1/10 of an hour and some in quarter hour increments. So, if the attorney spends 7 minutes on a phone call on her behalf and s/he bills in 1/10 of an hour increment that 7 minute call is costing $66. However, if the attorney bills in quarter hour increments, that same 7 minute call is costing $100. Your friend should have gotten a retainer letter from the attorney outlining all costs and fees (this includes copying, long distance calls, filing fees, and mail), as well as paralegal fees. Your friend may ask the attorney if there is any way to reduce some of the costs of her case (i.e., any work she can do to keep costs down).

Most importantly, is the attorney getting the job done to your friends' satisfaction? Legal work is complicated especially in domestic/family matters where the other party is not cooperating. That drives expenses up and your friend is going to have to decide if she is willing to pursue the case to a satisfactory end and if she has the right attorney to be able to do that.

Finding another attorney could double her fees, especially if they end up duplicating work the current attorney has already done and been paid for. In addition, she would have to come up with another retainer.

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N.W.

answers from Washington DC on

I'm going through a battle myself and have sought many attorneys. The one I ended up w/ charges $300 hr with a retainer of $3000. Other firms I contacted charge $3000/$3500 and a few as high as $5000-$7000. But I can recommend Lawyers .com or contact my attorney Jessica Adler on ###-###-#### ([email protected]____.com) or another attorney I was introduced to was a Mr.Tyra from another mom on mamasource and his # is ###-###-#### his retainer is $750 and $200hr. Best of luck and God Bless your friend and you for being a good friend (you'll are definitely needed).

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L.B.

answers from Washington DC on

I want to recommend the lawyer I am using right now for my divorce - she is excellent and her fees are $225.00 an hour -she works for herself so you avoid the hassle of dealing with a large firm. Her name is Sharon Johnson she is located Rockville. Give her a call at ###-###-#### - and good luck to you.

P.S. Sharon is not only a great lawyer, but she doesn't nickel and dime you to death - and I happen to think that $225.00 an hour is already fabulous remuneration for any job.

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C.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Try the Women's Center in Vienna, Virginia. Maybe they could help out.

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M.N.

answers from Washington DC on

Hello - I have been an accountant for a law firm in Fairfax City for over 14 years (full time for 13 and since then I do consulting). This may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to keep your costs down is to call as few times as possible. Make a list of all your questions and be prepared when you call. Call during nap time when there are no distractions. Also, keep track of how long you talk to your attorney and when you talk to them. They can make mistakes when entering in the information. Not to say that you do this, but I have seen clients run through retainers on the trivial matters. Also, you can request that paralegals or junior attorneys do as much of the work as possible to save costs. They are the ones who prepare all of the documents anyway, and the attorney charges you at their rate. Good luck!!!!!

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L.P.

answers from Washington DC on

My husband was involved in a highly contested custody case about two years ago in the DC Metro. He employed a couple of lawyers and fees ranged from $325-$425 per hour. He was asked for retainers in the amount of $20,000 at a time and spent more than $70,000 in all to resolve the matter. So, I imagine $400 per hour is very reasonable - especially for someone who is good at what they do.

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