We live in Pennsylvania. My wife, Sara, was seeking legal advice regarding an employment contract
and money owed back if we were to leave the area before her obligation period had ended. Basically, she wanted to know how much, if any, money she would have to repay. She contacted two lawyers under the impression that she was having a free consultation.
We met with the first attorney and explained the issue. We were instructed to give him a copy of the contracts
(there were two) and a copy of the monthly income allocation sheets. We were told at that time what the retainer fee was and we were asked to schedule an appointment. We did not.
She contacted the second attorney by phone to attempt to schedule an appointment for the consultation. Instead, he directed her to send the contract and income allocation sheets to him via email. They exchanged several emails and texts but they never met. Within the emails, the attorney explained that he did some calculations and he thought she would owe a specific amount back. (However, this was different than my own calculations and I have a BA in Mathematics).
Regardless, she just received a bill for $1740.00 minus $240 discount ($1500.00 total). She never entered into an agreement to use his services. Perhaps even more importantly, he NEVER disclosed his legal fees. He NEVER told her how much he charges or discussed payment with her. From what I could find in my brief search, according to § 81.4. Rules of Professional Conduct, under Rule 1.5. Fees,
(a) A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal or clearly excessive fee.
(b) When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation
Under the comments, it states "In a new client-lawyer relationship, however, an understanding as to the fee should be promptly established. It is not necessary to recite all the factors that underlie the basis of the fee, but only those that are directly involved in its computation. It is sufficient, for example, to state that the basic rate is an hourly charge or a fixed amount or an estimated amount, or to identify the factors that may be taken into account in finally fixing the fee."
She is extremely upset by this bill and we are looking for some quick advice. We are considering contacting the PA Bar Association to issue a formal grievance if necessary.
Thank you for your kind assistance,
Mark and Sara