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asfasf
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Attorney bills
      #772967 - 01/04/12 12:00 AM

My lawyer charged me 50 hours for my contested custody trial. Not sure whether this is normal. But he sent me the first bill 6 months after he started working on my case, even though the contract says he'd send me monthly bills. Also he didn't tell me that he charges email communication rounding to 0.1 hour.

Is that normal practice? Should I complain and negotiate?


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Renny
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Re: Attorney bills [Re: asfasf]
      #772983 - 01/04/12 08:01 AM

The initial 6 month wait may have been due to your lawyer drawing down on the retainer. At any rate, monthly billing is normal and is a pain if the lawyer doesn't have any staff. Look at the 50 hours and see if they match up with your records of meetings, phone calls, emails, faxes. See if there is too much padding. Emails are billed of course and rounding to 0.1 hour, like phone calls, is normal.

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asfasf
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Re: Attorney bills [Re: Renny]
      #773086 - 01/04/12 09:11 PM

It's hard to decide whether there is too much padding as he charges 0.2 - 0.3 hours for a lot of simple email communications between us. Also he charged a lot of hours "preparing" for documents and court hearing.

My point is, had he told me in advance the way he is going to charge, or simply provide me the bills on a monthly basis as promised in the contract, I would have figured out the pattern and would have changed the way of communication.

I suspect that he held the bills until the last minute on purpose so that he could charge all these hours before I could figure out.

Plus, for a lawyer with 30+ years of experience, I can't find his rating on martindale.com, or other sites.

Does it help if I seek help from state or local bar association?


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Renny
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Re: Attorney bills [Re: asfasf]
      #773098 - 01/04/12 11:35 PM

I would look at it this way. Did he accomplish what you hired him to do? If so, I wouldn't dwell on the billing or lodge a complaint with the bar unless there was out and out cheating. They all charge for re- reading documents for instance, which you might think they should remember. In fact, billing is an art form. Large firms have staff dedicated to billing. They don't miss a thing. Even parking expenses and mileage.

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asfasf
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Re: Attorney bills [Re: Renny]
      #773182 - 01/05/12 09:33 PM

You provided an objective approach to look at this issue. Honestly, I want to be fair but I am not sure whether we have accomplished what I deserved. When the judge asked me what I am looking for, I told him I want joint custody and weekly visitation, but forgot to ask for holidays and vacation as I assumed it would be automatic. The judge ordered the same except Wednesday overnight, but didn't mention holidays and vacation time.

I wish my lawyer had reminded me on court before the judge made the final decree, as he knows what I wanted. Now it's very difficult to modify the decree.

I told my lawyer that I am not happy about his approach of withholding bills for more than 6 months and presented it to me as a surprise. He said what he did was OK. So I told him I'd like to verify with a third party, ie, his bar association before I pay him.

Now that STBX switched to a "top" lawyer for the equitable distribution trial, I am pondering whether I should switch to a "top" one too, as I don't know whether it makes a difference for the asset distribution...


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Renny
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Re: Attorney bills [Re: asfasf]
      #773212 - 01/06/12 09:51 AM

If you have very substantial assets -- over $2 million in my book -- with complicated tax issues, QDROs, ss, and you don't mind paying for it, a "top" lawyer with a palatial law office may be in order. I think it's mostly marketing for family law. The best lawyers imo are the ones with a thriving litigation practice devoted to family law. They need to know the judges and other lawyers toiling in the vineyard. They have offices near the courthouse. 7-10 attorneys in the [censored]. Some appellate cases. The worst are the lunatic loners who don't return phone calls ever and have personal issues.

just a thought about leaving out the vacation time. It's not a trifling detail. I suppose the plan says that the visitation continues all year-round without any change? There are plans like that and a lawyer will not necessarily second-guess what a client wants. How did the lawyer know what you wanted?


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asfasf
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Re: Attorney bills [Re: Renny]
      #773354 - 01/07/12 08:21 PM

The major asset is the house that EX currently resides, which I assume will be sold and divided equally. The other being the money EX moved out of joint accounts and the mortgages that I have been paying continually, as advised by my lawyer. I am afraid EX has her own plan that may be different from mine substantially, and with a top lawyer on her side, I may be surprised if I wait until the trial day.

For the missing vacation / holidays from the custody, I've told my lawyer during our early meetings that I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as I reasonably can. And during the pre-trial settlement meeting, I have made it clear that I want to have a joint legal and shared physical custody with weekly visits, alternate holidays and summer vacation etc, which the defendant didn't agree, that led us to court.

But on court I focused on Wednesday and Friday overnights when asked by my lawyer and the judge of my preferred visitation schedule, and didn't mention holidays / vacation as I took it as granted as long as the court doesn't deny my right on legal custody.

The court awarded me joint legal custody, Friday overnight and Wednesday 6-8pm. It doesn't mention anything on holidays / vacation, nor a time frame of the plan. But it does say that "if the father (me) keeps running into opposition he is advised to ask for a modification of custody".

Should my lawyer remind me and the judge during the hearing given that he knows I wanted holidays / vacations? Or it's my own responsibility?


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