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David C. Garner
David C. Garner, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 1041
Experience:  JD with Distinction, Admitted to practice in California
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A lawyer (family trust) charged me based on time spend

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Hi, A lawyer (family trust) charged me based on time spend (amount $122.- : to read email, to reply email, and research time looking through a trust document) answering a simple (Yes/No) question. I was not expecting a charge unless he/his office told me it was chargeable. But I made the 'mistake' of not asking his office directly about whether this is chargeable or not, when I phoned in about the email request I sent. His office did not say it was chargeable or not, but sent me an invoice any way. When I phoned his office to complain/inquire about the legitimacy of his invoice/charge, his office suggested I leave him a phone message, and that he would answer it. That I did. But it has been two weeks without getting a reply. I am very nervous about dealing with lawyers. Could you analyze what situation am I in now, and what should I do now, or not do? Thanks.

Welcome to JA and thank you for your question. I will be the Attorney that will be assisting you. Can you tell me the State that your question pertains to?

I need the State to provide the law.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
California. Thanks.


I will try and help. The short answer here is that it seems that you sent and attorney a trust document and some email, and he/she spent somewhere less than an hour looking these things over in order to answer a question you had. I say less than an hour, because most California attorneys I know charge between $300 and $450 and hour for their services. Since was less than $1,000, your agreement did not need to be in writing. Based on that, such an invoice would seem legitimate and appropriate. When you say this is not what you were expecting, it would seem unrealistic for you to expect this attorney to review your matter for free.

You do not need to be nervous about dealing with attorneys. You are dealing with one now!! We try to provide the best service we can. Since you have not received a reply, contact this attorney again and leave a message with your specific concerns about his/her invoice. An attorney is not going to try and screw you for $122.

I hope this helps.


Customer: replied 11 months ago.
ok. Thanks for the answer. Got your point. Your educated guessed was right: This lawyer's hourly charge is $350.-. This trust was drawn up by this same law office, and resided in their permanent archives already (since 2003, the creation of which I have paid fully ), but another senior lawyer, who has retired since, created it. That lawyer told me in 2003 that phone questions are free service, unless informed otherwise. This present lawyer has already seemed to me to be too busy to communicate properly. Anyway: do you think (to avoid ambiguity/misunderstanding in future with any lawyer) I should have to ask (every time), whether a question I am asking will be chargeable to get an answer to? Any additional answer/comments you can offer/enlighten are welcome.


I think asking each time if you are going to be charged would be cumbersome. What I would do is send him a letter and express your concerns and ask for a breakdown of what he is going to charge you for and what he won't. Then you have something in writing if a dispute erupts later.

Most lawyers would be happy to outline this for you to avoid disputes.


David C. Garner, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 1041
Experience: JD with Distinction, Admitted to practice in California
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