The Attorney-Client relationship is a business relationship. The has the right to understand how the attorney's fees are calculated: flat fee or hourly rate.
FLAT FEE. A flat fee is the entire fee a client will pay for specific services. When receiving a flat fee quote be certain of the services you will be receiving for the quoted fee. Many flat fee agreements are deceiving and do not include trials or costs (filing fees, service fees, court reporter fees, etc.). Review the contract to be certain whether you are being charged a flat fee or by the hour. If the attorney has quoted an hourly rate, the initial payment to the attorney is not a flat fee but rather a retainer. This means that the cost of the divorce may exceed the initial retainer. If you are unsure of the fee arrangement, review the contract (as you should have received a copy from the attorney) or simply ask the attorney to clarify the arrangement.
HOURLY RATE. Most divorce attorneys charge for their services by an hourly rate. When a new client seeks the services of an attorney who charges for their services on a hourly rate, the attorney will require the payment of a retainer. A retainer is a sum of money paid to the attorney as a security deposit for their services which must be paid prior to the attorney beginning work on the divorce. The lawyer then subtracts the work completed by the attorney at the attorney's hourly rate and all additional costs (for which the client is responsible) from the retainer.
RETAINER. Illinois law strictly governs the handling of a retainer by an attorney. The attorney must place the retainer into a special trust account. The attorney will then withdraw funds from the retainer from time to time to pay for the costs incurred by the attorney (filing fee, service fee, etc.) and services rendered by the attorney. Any portion of the retainer that has not been earned by the attorney must be refunded when the attorney-client relationship ends. If the attorney-client relationship is terminated prior to the conclusion of the case, either by the client or the attorney, the attorney is entitled to keep the portion of the retainer covering the work performed by the attorney at the attorney's hourly rate(including the opening of files, preparation of documents, research into case law or the history of the divorce, etc.). If the possibility of reconciling with to keep a portion as non- refundable retainer. Illinois law does not allow attorneys to take "non-refundable" retainers for divorce cases.
WRITTEN AGREEMENT/ATTORNEY-CLIENT CONTRACT. The client and attorney should sign a written agreement defining the attorney-client relationship. This is called an attorney-client contract. This document sets forth all the duties of the attorney and the duties of client. The contract should also state:
hourly rate or a flat fee
any charges in addition to the hourly rate/flat fee
how fees owed to the clerk's office and/or sheriff are paid
Be certain to receive a copy of the contract and keep this for future reference. Thoroughly read the contract and ask any questions. You have the right to understand how the attorney is paid and the fees are assessed. If you have any questions about the fee agreement ask the attorney.
Prior to hiring an attorney, inquire as to what is expected once the retainer is depleted. Some attorneys will require additional retainers to be posted upon depletion of the initial retainer. Other attorneys allow client to make payments with certain requirements being met by the client. If a payment arrangement is agreed upon, it is in the best interest of both the client and the attorney to request a document, such as a letter, setting forth the agreement to alleviate any possibility of future confusion.
HOW MUCH WILL THE DIVORCE COST? Most divorce and family law attorneys require retainers rather than setting a flat fee since it is almost impossible to accurately predict the exact amount of both costs and attorney's fee. Be cautious of any attorney who states precisely what the client will pay in attorney's fees unless the attorney is quoting a flat fee. The exact cost of a divorce is unpredictable as much of the cost depends on the actions of the spouse and the spouse's attorney. A major factor in determining the cost of the divorce is how much of the divorce is disputed. Some of the factors causing the cost of a divorce to increase are: the number of documents the attorney drafts, the number of court appearances, the number of phone calls between the attorney and client, the complexity of the financial issues, and the difficulty in reaching an agreement on custody and visitation issues.
The attorney you hire affects the cost of your divorce. Dawn Bradley Berry, author of The Divorce Sourcebook, states that the cost of a divorce is very much affected by the attorney who hire. Although an attorney who will fight to the death for a client may seem appealing in the heat of the moment when the anger and hurt are fresh, Berry cautions against this type of "barracuda" litigation. She further states that this is seldom the best divorce tactic. Inevitably it causes unnecessary delays, runs up large bills, and adds to the turmoil already present in every divorce. Berry is not against litigation but states that there is a fine line between fighting for revenge and fighting for fundamental rights. She believes that a good attorney will help a client to understand the differences between standing one's ground on important issues and simply being stubborn. According to Berry, the best lawyer will "work hard to achieve a settlement that satisfies the client's most important needs and concerns and will remain steady to make a straightforward, dignified effort in court if necessary." This type of attorney will keep the turmoil to a minimum, resolve the divorce in the shortest time possible, and keep the fees reasonable.
Policies of the Law Office of Angela Lund-Logan. A retainer is required to be paid on all divorce cases of Attorney Angela Lund-Logan. The retainer is billed against at the hourly rate of $185. Also paid from the retainer are the costs (fees for filing, service, subpoenas, copies,etc.) incurred representing the client.
Attorney Angela Lund-Logan has her clients sign an attorney- client contract setting forth the details of the fee agreement. All retainers received by Attorney Angela Lund-Logan are placed into her trust account with periodic withdrawals in conjunction with her billing statements. She encourages her clients to discuss these billing statements with her if any questions arise. Attorney Angela Lund-Logan strives to provide her clients with cost- effective legal representation.