You expect to receive proper legal guidance for the money you pay for an attorney’s time. Such services often command a premium price when are least able to pay for them.
You may have needed to make some hard choices when you first hired your attorney. Gathering the necessary money to pay a challenge for those who did not anticipate a legal battle. Retainers are typically thousands of dollars and represent a good portion of what an attorney believes it will cost to resolve a legal issue. The lawyer that you hired likely also explained their hourly rates and any billing minimums that apply to clients’ accounts.
Given how important the right representation can be to securing a favorable outcome in a legal dispute, whether you faced criminal charges or needed to file a personal injury lawsuit, you recognized the value of an attorney’s time and advocacy. However, when you received the billing statement explaining how they made use of your retainer, you found yourself questioning their claims. What rights do you have in that situation?
Lawyers must be reasonable and fair in their billing practices
There are numerous restrictions in place for how an attorney handles a client’s retainer. Typically, they need to set those funds aside in a separate escrow account. They cannot touch that retainer for any personal or business expenses unless they have reason to bill against the retainer.
Your lawyer should also provide an explanation for every charge they deducted from your retainer or applied toward the balance due after they completely used the retainer. If your lawyer charges you for 30 minutes of time every time they respond to a short email or field a 3-minute phone call confirming your court date, you may have reason for concern.
Financial misconduct is a common form of legal malpractice
Lawyers should conform to basic ethical standards. Not only do they need to follow rules about how they manage retainer accounts, but they should also be ethical and transparent in their billing practices. Those who believe that their lawyers unfairly overcharge them or exaggerated the work performed on a case may have grounds for a legal malpractice claim.
Holding a lawyer accountable for unethical behavior with a legal malpractice claim could compensate you for their financial misconduct.