We understand your greatest fear in hiring us is how much it’s going to cost. Â To lessen that concern, we provide this information about how we structure fees. Â Fees for each matter vary depending on specific issues and facts, but the following should provide some basis for understanding how we bill.
Common sense – and the Texas rules of professional conduct – require our fees be reasonable. Â The rules list relevant factors in determining the fee, including the time involved and the difficulty of the issue, the experience of the attorney, etc. Â Also, we must provide competent representation and explain matters sufficiently to permit you to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
We meet these requirements in three ways. Â First, we limit our practice to those areas of law in which we have competence. Â If you need assistance beyond our capability we will either associate with capable counsel, or refer you to capable counsel – if we can’t help you, we’ll find someone who can!
Second, we provide a brief initial telephone consultation without charge. Â This enables us to learn more quickly what you need and whether we can help you. Â We might then provide an â€śin personâ€ť consultation during which we discuss the likely legal and financial considerations so you can make an “informed decision” whether to proceed further. In litigation matters, the fee for this consultation is $200 in advance; for non-litigation matters, the fee is $75.00 in advance. If you retain us, this amount is credited towards your first invoice.
By the way, if you cannot drive downtown and taxi or bus is not appropriate, Mr. Bernard will come to your location (whether at home, hospital or elsewhere). Depending on the particular matter and practice area, we provide this service at no extra charge.
Third, if there is mutual agreement to retain us, we document in writing the scope of the representation, the fee basis (Fixed Fee or Hourly) and any special requirements of the matter.
We understand the person approving payment of our fees is either spending his/her own money or is directly accountable for his/her companyâ€™s profitability. Â Our invoices contain the same level of detail expected if the case required court approval of attorneysâ€™ fees. Â We want you to feel you are receiving value.
Fixed (Flat) Fee Charges
Fixed fee charges add predictability to legal costs. Â We believe you are better served, for example, if you know in advance that every Deed will cost the same regardless of the number of phone calls, faxes, or e-mails it takes to get it signed, filed and recorded. Ditto for other types of repetitive or transactional work.
We can provide simple estate planning, deeds, simple probates and guardianship, contract/document review, etc., at a fixed fee. Â Even more complicated projects can be billed at a fixed fee. Â For example, we might agree to a flat fee on a task-by-task or stage-by-stage basis within a single project.
After we visit with you about your specific needs, we are happy to quote our exact fee for you prior to beginning any work so that you have an accurate idea of how much you will be charged. Â Fixed fee charges include all research, communication and correspondence needed to finish the agreed upon scope of work.
For contested litigation matters and more complex projects not appropriate for fixed fee charges (unpredictable scope), hourly rates apply. Â Current rates range from $210 to $275 per hour for attorney time depending on the particular matter and practice area. Â Paralegal work is billed at $120 per hour. Â Clerical work is billed at $75 per hour if appropriate. Â Out of pocket expenses are extra, however, as are fees for court costs, some database research, and extraordinary postage or copy work, etc.
Where the scope of the engagement is somewhat unpredictable, we can negotiate a â€ścapped-feeâ€ť with our clients. Â With this fee arrangement the client pays an hourly rate, but we agree the total bill will not exceed the capped amount.
For cases with a moderately unpredictable scope of engagement, we can agree to use a â€śsoft capâ€ť based on specific assumptions. Â For example, if the assumptions turn out wrong, we can agree to adjust the fees accordingly.
Our practice areas rarely lend themselves to contingency fees. Â However, we might consider them in certain, special, cases.
Advance Deposit (Retainer)
New fixed fee clients are asked to pay their non-refundable fixed fee in advance. Â New hourly clients are asked to submit a refundable Advance Deposit into an IOLTA trust account. Â The Advance Deposit is typically equal to the fees and costs likely to be incurred during a two-month period, will be applied to your unpaid invoices at the time the invoice is generated, and must be replenished as needed. Â At the conclusion of our representation, any remaining balance will be returned to you.
Time and Expenses
All time is charged in minimum increments of 0.1 hours (6 minutes) including letters and phone calls. Â Travel time in Harris County and within 40 miles of our office is not billed. Â Travel time outside that radius is regarded as a shared responsibility and we bill for half of any such travel time required for court appearances, depositions and the like.
We use a â€śpass throughâ€ť approach to the billing of client expenses. Â All costs disbursed on clientsâ€™ behalf are billed at actual cost; mileage is billed at the IRS allowed rate.
Payment with PayPal or Credit Card
Bernard Law Office responded to requests from clients to offer alternative payment methods. Â While law firms historically require cash “retainers” to pay for legal services, we recognize many clients do not have the cash resources to make such up-front payments. Â As a result, we are pleased to offer clients the option to pay for legal services or the Advance Deposit using a credit card or PayPal account, for an additional 3% of the billed amount. Â Some clients say the ability to use a credit card has allowed them to utilize our services when they were not otherwise able to do so, and other clients appreciated the benefit of accruing airline miles or credit card points when paying for legal services. Â Whatever the reason, we are pleased to offer this option at our “Pay Online” page under the “Contact” tab.