Attorney Fees and Retainer

Free Consultations

We offer free consultations by phone or, if necessary, in person.  Bar rules require that these conversations be covered by attorney-client privilege, even if we are not hired.  Therefore, we cannot divulge that you have been to see us, unless you give us permission to do so.  We also are prohibited from discussing the substance of anything you told us with other people, including family or friends, unless you give us permission.

A free consultation is an important part of the process because it lets you get to know us, and lets us give you some basic initial advice that can make all the difference in your case.  We want to make sure at the beginning of our relationship you confidence in our abilities, and trust our judgment.

Since you will ultimately depend upon your lawyer for crucial advice at various points in your representation, you must be confident the lawyer's sole goal is achieving the best possible outcome for you.

Flat Fees

We charge flat fees for most types of representation. Flat fees ensure that the client knows the cost of representation before work is begun.  Where hourly fees can result in a large and unpleasant bill at the end of representation, flat fees establish the cost of representation at the beginning of the process.

These fees can range from a few hundred dollars for very simple misdemeanors, to tens of thousands of dollars for complex cases or cases involving federal prosecution.  We set our fees pursuant to North Carolina's ethical rules that the fees be reasonable, and consistent with our experience in how long and difficult the case may be to resolve.

Reasonable Fees

We strive to offer reasonable fees.  But, especially in complex cases and given the quality of representation we offer, these fees are sometimes higher than people expect.  We are happy to talk about the fee, and talk about your financial limitations.  In some cases, we can adjust our fee.  However, we advise against hiring the least expensive lawyer; the old adage, "you get what you pay for," applies when hiring an attorney.  We work hard for our clients, and ask for appropriate compensation for our work.

Forms of Payment

We accept cash, check, certified funds, and all major forms of credit cards.  As described below, we accept payment from the client, or from friends or family who may wish to assist our clients.  In no case will our office retain credit card numbers.  We will always ask you at the time of payment for a credit card number, or utilize a secure third-party payment processor to maintain your confidential information.

We are required to file certain forms with the IRS in cases where we accept cash in amounts that exceed $10,000, even if those cash amounts are delivered in multiple payments.

Written Contract

North Carolina Bar Rules require a written contract, also called a Letter of Engagement, that describes the terms of representation, the cost, and the hourly rate.  We provide a copy of our standard Letter of Engagement, and negotiate, as required, changes consistent with our and the client's expectations.

Payment Plans

In many cases, especially when hired early in the process, we are able to offer payment plans.  Good representation can be expensive, and the costs can be unexpected.  While the flat fee is owed to the firm at the start of representation, we can offer payment plans that allow a client to pay over weeks or months.

Third-Party Payments

Consistent with the ethical rules that apply to lawyers in North Carolina, we can accept payment from third-parties.  However, even though we may accept payment from a friend or family member, we will never discuss a client's case with those individuals without our client's explicit permission.

Partial or Limited Representation

Where a client simply needs representation for a certain part of the case - the investigation, District Court, Superior Court, or appeal - we can offer representation that covers just that part of the case.  By offering partial or limited representation, we can usually reduce the total cost to the client so that client pays for stages of representation, and not for work that will never be done.

Hourly Fees

In certain instances, we will agree to work on an hourly basis.  Hourly rates are offered in unusual or unique cases where a fair flat fee can not be determined.  We will ask that a sum of money be held in trust, and our fees will be billed against that money with invoices sent to the client on a regular basis.

Proof of Payment

We provide proof of payment in the form of either paper receipts or emailed invoices and receipts.

Fee Disputes

In rare cases where we and a client disagree about the amount of money owed to the firm, we often can negotiate a resolution. Where a resolution cannot be agreed upon, we let clients know that they can avail themselves of the North Carolina Fee Dispute Resolution program, which requires attorneys to participate in non-binding mediation.

 

1 Comment

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