Often, when people set foot in a lawyer's office, they are given a multi-page contract and told to sign the agreement before they have had a chance to review the terms. While I still use a written agreement, I publicly post my requirements for you and your expectations of working with me. I do this to prevent any surprise you might have when you receive the agreement.
Terms of Representation
These terms are incorporated by reference into our standard retainer agreement. These terms do not form an attorney-client relationship or form the basis of a contract unless you have also received an agreement from our office for your signature. We may amend some of these terms from time to time with little or no notice. If we do make a significant change to these terms, we will notify you and give you an opportunity to review them before we implement the changes.
I. What You Can Expect of Me
As your lawyer, I will represent you to the best of my ability to meet your goals in the manner you've instructed. While I will provide advice to you and make recommendations, I will act as your agent and perform legal services in the manner you desire. Therefore, you authorize me to act on your behalf as your attorney-in-fact. Further, I do not make any guarantees of success in representing you.
Once I am retained, everything communicated between an us is covered by the Rules of Professional Responsibility, which include provisions for confidentiality. Until I am retained, our conversations have no expectation of confidentiality and may be disclosed to others.
The single biggest complaint clients have with their attorneys is lack of communication. In order to prevent this problem, I try to over-communicate with my clients. However, as I am a solo practitioner, responding to communications can be difficult when I'm in meetings, in court, or on vacation. Therefore, please pay attention to the following policies:
If you have a matter that is urgent and needs to be addressed within 24 hours, call my office. If I am unavailable, I will make every possible effort to return your call within 24 hours. Generally, I am able to return calls within an hour or at least by the end of the day.
Email should only be used for non-urgent matters. I usually only check email twice per day in order to focus on items I need to do that day. Therefore, it may be days before you receive a response to email.
I.3.iii Making an Appointment
If you call my office, I may be distracted or otherwise unavailable. If you need to speak with me, I highly recommend making an appointment to meet with me. You can do this by calling our office or using our online scheduler.
I.3.iv Five-Minute Rule
I institute what I call "The Five-Minute Rule." If you have a question that can easily be answered in 5 minutes or less, I will not bill you for that time. Feel free to email me or call me.
I.3.v Office Hours, Vacation, and Holidays
My office hours are 8:30-5:00 Monday through Friday. I am on Central time. Holidays are all state and national holidays. I keep my office's phones on from 7am to 7pm. I admittedly keep crazy hours. It's not unusual for me to get to work on a project at the crack of dawn and then cut out of the office shortly after lunch. I may even respond to an email after hours. However, no matter where I am physically, you should not count on me being available except during normal business hours.
Often times, you might think something is of dire importance, but this does not make it an emergency. This is usually because there is usually nothing I can do to solve your emergency because the wheels of justice do not move quickly.
The following situations are legitimate emergencies:
- You or an immediate family member have been arrested within the last 72 hours
- You have a legal document that is due in less than 72 hours, such as a pleading, discovery, or some other submission
Nothing else is defined as an emergency. If you have an emergency situation, you are to call our office or leave a voicemail.
I3.vii After Hours
As a matter of policy, I do not attend to urgent non-emergencies after hours. If, however, you must have an urgent issue addressed after hours, I reserve the right to bill in full hour increments at up to three (3) times my usual rate.
I use a cloud platform called Clio Connect to manage my cases. Using Clio Connect, I can share documents, communications, tasks, and invoices with you securely. This is a service provided at no additional charge to you. This portal is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I use hourly rates and some alternative fee arrangements in representation of my clients. By default, I charge by the hour unless we have something in writing and signed stating otherwise. At times, I may associate with another attorney or non-attorney on a matter, whom I will invoice out at a marked up rate. Hourly rates for attorneys range from $150 to $200 per hour. Hourly rates for paralegals range from $75 to $125 per hour. Hourly rates for legal secretaries and law clerks range from $35 to $65 per hour.
Expenses incurred in connection with our representation of Client shall remain the sole responsibility of Client to pay and reimburse to Firm. Said expenses include, but are not limited to, long distance telephone charges, telegram charges, court costs, costs of copies of documents, parking tolls, air fare, deposition expenses, photocopying documents in Firm's office, and out-of-town automobile expenses at the rate set by the Internal Revenue Service. Expenses will be paid from Client’s retainer unless otherwise noted.
I.7 Identifying You as a Client
I may choose to identify you as a client of mine in my marketing. I assure you that, if I decide to do that, it will be done in a tasteful manner. I will not breach any confidentiality or disclose the nature of my representation of you. Alternately, I may choose to share non-sensitive details of my representation in blogs, social media, or other forums. I promise that I will not reveal any details which will allow a third party to identify you as the subject of these posts.
1.8 Ending My Representation
If I choose to terminate my representation, I will provide you written notice as to why I am terminating my representation. If, after thirty (30) days, you have failed to correct the problem I identified in my notice to you, I will withdraw from representing you. On termination of our representation, we will keep all physical, electronic, and other items for a minimum of six (6) months. After this period, we may choose to destroy any non-electronic documentation or evidence in a secure manner.
I.9 Retaining Documents
I have a policy of destroying all documents and any other physical belongings relating to your matter six months after I close the file. If you want to keep these items, you must arrange to pick them up from my office or have them shipped to you, at additional expense if necessary. If you do not let us know that you want these items, they will be destroyed in a secure manner. We will leave your electronic file open indefinitely. We will notify you if we intend to delete the file and give you time to transfer the files.
II. My Expectations for You
As your attorney, I will need your help to effectively represent you. The following is a listing of specific thing I will need from you.
As our communications are attorney-client privileged, I will need for you to be honest with me. It may not be comfortable, but it is important that I have a complete and accurate picture of your situation to properly advise you. Therefore, err on the side of revealing too much instead of too little.
During my representation, I will need you to perform certain tasks, retrieve certain documents, and attend certain appointments. Especially in litigation, your cooperation is necessary in order to prevent sanctions being levied against us. Please make every effort to comply with these requests.
II.3 Updates to Your Information
If you move, change your name, get married, change your phone number, or do anything else that will change how we communicate with you or your legal status, please let us know as soon as possible after making that change.
Because we keep an electronic file, it is actually very helpful for you to sent to us electronic versions of documents, files, etc. However, if you use a free email provider, such as Gmail, sending these documents is not secure, and you may sacrifice confidentiality sending them using these methods. Instead, we recommend sharing documents like this through Clio Connect. To facilitate making electronic copies of documents, we recommend using Fujitsu Scansnap scanners or using Evernote Scannable on your phone.
I issue invoices monthly at the beginning of each month. I will apply any funds you have in your retainer to outstanding invoices first. All invoices are due 10 days after they are issued. If you pay before the due date, I offer a one percent (1.0%) discount on the total invoice. There is a fifteen (15) day grace period after the due date. If a balance remains on the invoice after the grace period, it will be assessed a two and a half percent (2.5%) finance charge on the outstanding balance every 30 days.
II.5.i Satisfaction Guarantee
If you feel that an invoice is not indicative of the work I have performed, I grant you a line-item veto on any work I perform at an hourly rate. Simply (1) print out the invoice, (2) mark out the line item, (3) put how much you are willing to pay, (4) tell us why you're paying that amount, and (5) send it back to our office. This applies to decreasing the amount of the bill if you think we worked too long on the task, or increasing the amount if you feel that the amount billed was not indicative of the work performed or the results received. You should also understand that this is a guarantee of your satisfaction with the way we've represented you, not with the outcome of the case.
Expenses will be advanced by me on your behalf. I will include these on any invoices. Expenses will always be your responsibility to compensate me for.
II.5.iii Failure to Pay
If you continue to carry a balance without setting up a payment plan, I will withdraw from your case. This can result in significant injury to your legal rights, and may result in entry of default against you or the termination of legal remedies. You must understand how important it is to make sure your invoices are paid in a timely manner. You grant me a lien on and security interest in any claim, cause of action, or proceeds from your case, as security for the payment of all amounts I am due. You agree to pay for all costs of collections, including reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and interest.
II.6 Terminating My Representation
By law, you can fire me at any time and for any reason. I would appreciate you letting me know why you are terminated my representation so that I can correct the problem. If I am employed on an alternate fee basis, and I am terminated before the representation is concluded, you agree that I will be compensated at an hourly rate for time I worked on the case and expenses I incurred before discharge.