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Is a $2500 non refundable flat fee for the investigation,

(pre-charge), phase of a criminal...
Is a $2500 non refundable flat fee for the investigation, (pre-charge), phase of a criminal investigation an unreasonable fee if no charges are brought against me? The lawyer literally had his paralegal print 5 copies of a letter to give to law enforcement if i was contacted. He never made contact with the DA's office or talk to me after our initial consultation. Also its said i paid a 2500 non refundable retainer but it counts towards future fees if charges are filed and i had to pay it to get the letter which is a service that doesnt fall under a true retainer.
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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
sorry it says non refundable minimum fee that also count towards future flat fee if i am charged.
Answered in 27 minutes by:
5/30/2018
Bill Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 2,817
Experience: Attorney
Verified

Dear Customer ,

Thank You for posting your lawyer ethics and accounts question. I'm attorney Bill assisting you with this matter. Lawyers are prohibited by the ABA from charging an unreasonable fee and retainer; whether this fee is unreasonable depends on the amount of work that was done.

There is also a dispute in the wording of the agreement so if you have a copy of the retainer this is something I can review as an additional service.

The State bar offers an arbitration service to dispute lawyer's fee so this is going to be your best recourse to recover part of the retainer

You need to submit an application with the arbitration service:

https://www.floridabar.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Agreement-to-Arbitrate.pdf

From your description certainly some refund seems likely.

Your lawyer will need to justify hours done to retain the retainer.

Here to help so please follow up with me as required.

In return by taking the time to rate positively today, I get a credit for my time.

You do this by rating 5*****, 4**** or accept.

FIVE STARS or your rating is much appreciated in this regard.

Thanks

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
i have the retainer agreement ready to upload for the additional service.
Customer reply replied 2 months ago
He has literally done nothing. We had a 18min free consultation and then i signed with him the next day. His paralegal provided the letters and shes called me onetime since may 8th to see if ive heard anything.

Yes let me make an offer to review the agreement.

This is contractual in nature so you will need to dispute it with the Arbitration council or in the circuit court.

It does appear to be an unreasonable fee and such is prohibited by the ABA.

You can additionally file a grievance with the bar association about the attorney.

Attorney Bill

Bill Attorney
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Satisfied Customers: 2,817
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Contracting for a a minimum fee is something the attorney can legally and ethically do but if he has performed no work then the fee is unconscionable and he should only keep part of the fee for retention and office time purposes.

Most States including Florida follow this practice as the ABA pertains to all States.

For example:

"

Eight years ago, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed a two-year suspension imposed on a lawyer who charged minimum, non-refundable fees to three clients, and then refused to refund any part of the fees, even though he was discharged before their matters were completed. [Matter of Cooperman, 83 N.Y.2d 465 (1994).] The Appellate Division was outraged at the minimum, non-refundable fees Cooperman charged to handle two criminal cases — $10,000 and $15,000, respectively — and found it “unconscionable” that a lawyer would claim that he had earned such large amounts merely for filing a notice of appearance. [Matter of Cooperman, 187 A.D.2d 56 (2nd Dept. 1993).] The Court of Appeals agreed and held that “non refundable” retainers were inherently unethical and improper. The Court distinguished general retainers, which secure a lawyer’s appearance, but are not applied to any legal services which the lawyer might render.

According to the Court of Appeals, fees paid in advance for future legal services must be refundable, or the client’s right to freely discharge the lawyer will be thwarted. "

So you can definitely dispute his fees here with the State bar and should file a dispute.

Best

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
What is a reasonable amount for a high power local lawyer to claim for retention? I see your example but $2500 is no where near the $10k it mentions. In the agreement it also states i must pay his lawyer fees if i take this to court. Would that stand to mean he wont agree to arbitration and make me sue him in small claims court?
Customer reply replied 2 months ago
I also wasnt provided a copy of the retainer until i paid the remaining balance of $500 May 25th. when i signed the retainer it was one page provided. When i paid the balance i was given three pages, the two that i didnt get to see was provided to you for the review.

The example I quoted for 10k was where the attorney had performed some service; such as an appearance.

The Florida bar service would be the best forum to take your action as it is free:

You are entitled to sue in the small claims but the attorney could then remove the case to the civil court which is going to be costly for you if that transpired.

Best

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
i practically have no ground to get my money back because all he has to do is deny a arbitration agreement, then push small claims to civil court and thats that since hiring a lawyer would prove more costly than the $2500.Can the florida bar force him to refund it or provide a lawyer if they view the fee as unreasonable?

The State bar will review all complaints made and will contact the attorney and give you an arbitration date.

All attorneys are required to participate under the program so you will get a hearing.

You can sue in the small claims but the clerk might indicate that you should file with the State bar arbitration committee in relation to the fee dispute as this forum has been specifically designed for clients like yourself.

A case in the small claims is often removed to the circuit court as every person has the right to a regular trial in law.

Best

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Thanks for the help. So just to reflect on the retainer contract, I would have a case since there has been no work performed although it says non refundable. Also considered unreasonable because I cant fire my lawyer because his non refundable retainer thwarts me from firing him since i would just lose that money that i paid.

Yes, you certainly have a claim here that needs to be adjudicated or settled by agreement with the lawyer.

He will need to justify the retainer and payment in terms of work done regardless of the wording of the retainer.

Best

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Thank you so much for the help im sure ill be asking another question in the future when things go sideways with the lawyers responses to my refund.

He will need to engage with the State bar once your file the dispute resolution.

As it stands he doesn't have a legal obligation to engage with your demands for refund so doing the same will see results one way or the other. It appears to me some refund would be due less retention and office time costs. He would be entitled to a fee for the same, perhaps 50%.

Best

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
plan on losing $1250 for the retention aspect although i would have never signed if his paralegal told me the full truth, how he takes on multiple clients for the same case so i wouldn't have lost him due to conflict of interest. She also never showed the first and second page of the retainer when i signed, just the last page to sign. I wasnt allowed to get a copy of until i paid the balance in full. Paid 2000 then 500 2 weeks later.

Well , I'm not the person making the decision , do let me know how you get on.

There seems to be quite a lot of unethical conduct in relation to the retainer so you might also file a compalint with the State bar for investigation of a violation of its ethical rules.

https://www.floridabar.org/public/acap/

Best of luck

Attorney Bill

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Thanks will start off with a certified letter, return receipt, highlighting what we talked about and go from there with the state bar if he hardballs. Will let you know of the outcome.

Best of luck

Attorney Bill

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