Communicating with Your Attorney
There are many many ways to contact your attorney. If there is an emergency
you should telephone the office so that the staff may hunt them down for
you. However, in most instances the best way to let them know what is
going on is to put it down in writing. Either by letter, EMail or facsimile
so that the file can be pulled, and the status reviewed to answer your
particular questions. An even more effective tool is to make your list
of concerns and questions and set a conference with your attorney to discuss
them. Knowing what methods your attorney prefers can increase the response
time. Clients know that we have conferences on Mondays and Wednesdays
and that therefore, we are available for phone calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays,
What is a reasonable retainer?
- Pure Retainers
There two types of retainers: Those that reserve an attorney's time
and reputation for your case and those that are charged against an
hourly fee (Hourly Retainers). A pure Retainer is a fee that ensures
that the attorney of your choice will represent you and not the other
party. The attorney receives the non-refundable retainer guaranteeing
that they will not take any other cases which may monopolize their
time and they will not represent the other party, ever.
- Hourly Fee Retainers
Hourly Fee Retainers are charged against actual work performed by
the attorney. For example if the retainer is $3,000 then you just
purchased 10 hours of attorney time at the rate of $300 per hour.
If the attorney does not perform the 10 hours of service, the balance
is refundable. An itemized accounting of the work performed should
be provided on a regular basis.
If your retainer is exhausted and your case goes over the 10 hours (per
the above example), you will receive a bill. If that bill is not paid
in full in a timely manner, the attorney can withdraw from your case for
lack of payment. The key is to find an attorney who will accept monthly
payments, once the retainer has been exhausted. No one has a crystal ball
and can predict how smoothly a case will run, so you must plan for the
worst case scenario. Ask each attorney you consult with..."What happens
if my retainer gets exhausted?" If you hear, "Don't worry, we'll work
it out." WORRY. Or, "We'll send you a bill." If the agreement to accept
monthly payments is not in your written retainer agreement, then it does
not exist. Do not fall into this trap or you'll end up representing yourself
Costs of Dissolutions
Hourly Fee Retainers very greatly depending on the complexity of
the case....for example an actual uncontested dissolution averages
$1,500; however a child custody matter can run over $5,000 - $10,000.
The average, two kids, one house, one retirement division averages
$3,500. The above amounts are for attorney time only and do not include
the Court's filing fee of $193 or other out of pocket costs. Posey
& Associates do not charge for the efforts of our paralegals/legal
assistants, we only charge for the attorney's time, formal appearances,
time in court, telephone calls, conferences and document preparation.
Beware: Other firms will charge you for the attorney dictating
a document, the draft prepared by the legal assistant, and then the
final review of the draft by the attorney. I have seen some firms
charge for meetings between the legal assistant and the attorney while
they are discussing the case management!
Which attorney do I choose?
First, you should choose an attorney whose practice is 90 percent family
law. Many attorneys like to dabble in family law, thinking that it is
easy. However, family law is one of the most complex and ever changing
areas of the law. We have to be able to determine business cash flow analysis,
know tax implications of transactions and support, be a counselor and
guide, residence sales, retirement options, negotiations and a plethora
of other skills. Secondly, you should choose an attorney with whom you
can communicate easily, who will understand what you need and take the
time to listen to your concerns.
"I'm in this for the long haul..."
Some couples split with a vengeance. Their divorce strategy is to make
the other party as miserable as possible by blocking settlement agreements,
contesting visitation and being just plain difficult. To get personally
involved in this sort of petty bickering is pointless that's what your
attorney is for. Attorneys love that sort of thing, by the way. That's
how they spend their day. Arguing. They're good at it. No, you don't understand-
they're reeaally good at it. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse is being difficult,
the right attorney can get you things you've only dreamed of.