How Much Will My Case Cost?
No attorney can or should guarantee a timeline or outcome. Not only is it unrealistic and misleading, particularly for lawsuits, but these sort of assurances or guarantees may also violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. The truth is that the cost of your case will depend on many factors, some of which cannot be estimated at the beginning of a case.
Some of those factors include: the willingness of either side to settle or pursue the case; the number of documents (including financial documents) the attorney must review; the complexity of the legal issues and claims; the procedural requirements imposed by the court system; the time it make take to collect or exchange all relevant evidence, reports and information; the number of times a client calls, e-mails or meetings with Ms. Edwards; and any continuances or delays from either side or from the court. Once a lawsuit is filed, there are certain tasks that may be required in any given case, regardless of whether you want them or you are defending against them, all of which increases the billable time spent on your case.
What Are Fees and Costs?
When we refer to fees, we are usually talking about attorney’s fees. Billing is hourly in most cases, meaning all work performed on your case is billed at the hourly rate. We charge the same hourly rate for all work, including preparing documents, meeting with a client, court preparation and appearance, making phone calls or answering e-mails. At the start of your case, we request an advance of money, which means we place funds in your account, and bill against it when we perform work. When the advance is depleted, we will request you to replenish the funds in your account.
Court filing fees are charged in every lawsuit, and usually vary in amount from $20.00 to $225.00. With rare exception, the courts charge fees to anyone who files a lawsuit, including divorce, child custody and support, alimony or property division, or a notice of hearing. The state charges a fee if we have to serve the other party by sheriff. If we have to serve someone by sheriff or process server in another state, their fees will apply.
Costs are usually expenses paid to third parties like the court for filing fees, court reporters for depositions, mediators, CPAs, appraisers, expert witnesses or private investigators. Depending on what the cost is, we may ask you to pay the cost directly or we may request that you place the funds in our trust account so we may pay the third party.
Can I Get Attorney’s Fees?
There is sometimes an opportunity to seek attorney’s fees, but judges may choose whether to order them, and if so, in what amount they must be paid. Pitt County judges typically don’t award fees for temporary claims, like temporary child custody, until the whole case is finished, which might well take a year or longer.
How Can I Keep Costs Down?
Clients sometimes forget we are on the clock whenever we work on their cases. You can call us every few days if you choose but your bill will reflect it. A twenty-minute phone call might be a five-minute e-mail.
Other times, clients are trying to cope with the trauma of their situation by repeatedly dwelling on how badly the opposing party is behaving. While we truly sympathize and do our best to support you, our job is to handle the legal matters. We don’t want to charge you for non-legal work, so please don’t be offended if we refer you to a professional such as a therapist who is trained to help you deal with the emotional turmoil.
When we need documents, we need them in a usable way, not crumpled up in a ball in a shoe box. Please see your fee contract at the beginning of the case. It is less expensive for you to sort them out before giving them to us.
Keep us informed about your financial situation. If you are having financial problems, talk to us early in the process so we can brainstorm what to do next. Ultimately, we do have to be paid in order to continue working in your case but if we do have to withdraw in your case, we certainly don’t take it personally.
Contact us if you have any questions about your billing statement.
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