We have written this Billing FAQ to try to be as transparent as we can about our billing practices. If you ever have any questions that are not answered here, calls or emails from clients that are strictly about billing, are always answered at no charge.
We work strictly off of retainer. This means that you pay us in advance for the time we expect to bill on your case. Retainer money, by law, is held in a special type of bank account called an IOLTA account; we often refer to it as your trust account. The interest earned is paid by the bank to the IOLTA program, not to us.
At the end of each month, we issue you a bill for the hours we have spent on your case, and any disbursements we have made, and then we transfer the fees we have earned from your Trust account into our personal accounts. Any monies we have not yet earned, remain in your Trust account for a future month’s billing.
We will ask you for some amount of retainer money to begin your case. Please understand that this is not the total amount we anticipate your case will cost; this simply allows us to begin work. If we anticipate billing more than what is in your Trust account in any given month, we will ask for you to pay a supplemental retainer. At the end of your case, if any money remains in your Trust account, we reimburse it.
You are charged based on the amount of time we spend on your case. This includes time we spend on things we are doing at your direction, and time we spend responding to other parties legally involved in your case. Examples of other parties that we might be required to communicate with include the opposing attorney, the court, and experts such as – custody evaluators, financial consultants, guardians ad litem, realtors, and appraisers. Any time we work on your case, we bill a minimum of 1/10th of an hour, and we bill in increments of 1/10th of an hour. Everything we do is itemized on the bill you receive at the end of the month.
We bill for:
- Email – We bill for reading emails, writing emails we initiate, and responding to emails we receive.
- Telephone calls – We bill for all telephone calls related to your case.
- In person meetings or conferences
- Drafting correspondence or pleadings
- Negotiations and mediations
- Travel time to and from locations away from our office
- Time in court, including time we may spend waiting for the court (sometimes the court calls multiple cases for the same time)
- Legal research
We are able to bill a small subset of uncontested divorce cases on a flat fee basis. You can check this link to see if your case would qualify. We are also able to bill mediation sessions on a flat fee basis. All other cases must be billed hourly because the number of hours required varies so much from case to case.
When we receive a bill or pay an expense on behalf of clients the cost is passed onto clients on their bill. Examples would be:
- Filing fees that we pay to counties
- Courier fees
- Document requests from the court
- Court reporter transcript fees
There are other somewhat more passive costs that we incur on behalf of clients that we do not put on bills (but many offices do just so you are aware). Examples would be:
- Long distance phone calls
- Parking fees we incur attending appointments on behalf of clients
- Meal expenses we incur while with clients
We will continue to add to this FAQ as we receive questions.