Houston, TX asked in Real Estate Law for Florida

Q: Can my attorney threaten me with fees for asking questions about the case?

When I asked for a few minutes of his time to go over his last update on the case, he replied with a time and a statement that my retainer amount expired (which I paid two weeks prior) and that fees have accrued (although no event occurred between the payment time and the email sent). I asked what fees? He replied the fees that accrued and he would receive them via email. No email was sent from him (about the arbitrary fees) and no appointment set to speak with him. Is it not his ethical duty to answer simple questions from the client about the case for clarity. Should I be charged for questions? How should I proceed? It feels impossible with him.

We’ve had previous discussions and he has make snarky remarks. I have addressed them and he has apologized. To clear, these are simple questions that for clarity through the legal jargon that take a few minutes and help understand the direction of the case

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2 Lawyer Answers
Phillip William Gunthert
Phillip William Gunthert
  • Orlando, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Every attorney is different and every fee structure is different, it also depends on the type of legal help you are getting, probate, civil matter and litigation, real estate, etc., so it depends, the engagement contract should be clear on what is and what is not included as well as the hourly or flat-fee costs, as far as per email or communication costs, many law offices do 15 minute minimal billing for any communication, so be prepared, not all attorney's do this. If you are not happy and they are not addressing your concerns, you can fire them and find a new attorney, the monies so far submitted are lost or used up and you would have to start over with new counsel, so you will have to weigh your options. On a personal note, when I respond to an email, I do not bill for each email and communication or do minimal 15 minute billing, but this is me, others may or may not do the same, so these are questions you want and need to address via the engagement contract. Also, yes, any attorney should explain terms and issues you do not understand, if they do not, they are a lousy attorney (just my opinion) there is no place for attitude or being snarky either, but again, that may just be me.

Barbara Billiot Stage agrees with this answer

Jane Kim
Jane Kim pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Naples, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Lawyers get paid for the time spent, any and all time, whether it is speaking with a client or thinking about their case or typing out a legal brief. Sounds like your lawyer does not believe he'll get paid for his time, just guessing here. The fact that you think he did nothing and your retainer has been exhausted shows the disconnect between what you think is billable time and what is, in fact, billable.

Barry W. Kaufman agrees with this answer

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