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Attorney suing for legal fees.

Discussion in 'Judgement Enforcement & Collection' started by Lia Behring, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. Lia Behring

    Lia Behring Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I hired an attorney last year to represent me in a child custody case. After the retainer was depleted I was charged an additional $5000. My ex spouse in the same case only spent $1,500 in fees total. I am now being sued for the $5000 balance. What are my options at this point?
  2. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    Did the attorney send you a billing statement (itemized)? If not, request one and carefully go over it before paying the bill. If everything is copacetic...pay the bill.

    What your ex claims he paid is totally irrelevant.
  3. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    When I got divorced my ex spent $20,000 on her lawyer.

    I paid a lawyer a couple of hundred dollars for sample pleadings.
    justblue likes this.
  4. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    1. Pay the amount claimed by the attorney as being due in full.
    2. Try to negotiate a reduced lump-sum settlement.
    3. Try to negotiate a settlement whereby you make monthly payments.
    4. Refuse to pay and file a responsive pleading in the lawsuit.
    5. Refuse to pay and don't file a responsive pleading.
    6. File bankruptcy.

    There may be a few other options. No one here has any way of knowing what option might be best for you, except that #5 is probably a bad option under any circumstance.
  5. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I've very often seen $5,000 exist as a retainer requirement which you must replenish when it is depleted. As @adjusterjack mentions, the legal costs of adverse parties is not required to be equal and often it likely would not be, given the work is different for each party. I'm wondering why the attorney is suing you - what was the exchange you had that led this to arise? This might explain a great deal.

    As I don't have the answer, here is what you may consider doing, which is likely dependent upon your answer from the above question.

    1. Carefully review your retainer agreement with the attorney. This is essential.
    2. Review the bills sent to you for actual work performed by the attorney and do the math. Does it add up to $10,000? This is also essential.
    3. If you have legitimate objections, such as billing you excess amounts for services (which has been known to happen), then note and list them and add them up.
    4. Did the attorney send you a final request for payment with a detailing billing before filing a lawsuit? This should have occurred prior to filing suit.
    5. Review the complaint for the lawsuit - does it provide any detailed information which justifies the $5,000? What court is it in? Is it in civil court? Small claims court?

    It's possible the attorney may be suing for the full amount of his/her retainer which was not replenished. This should never happen but I have seen attorneys do some of the most disgraceful, dishonest acts. I have even seen them try to use the court system to further them. Incredible but true. If the amount sought includes the full retainer as a result of it not being replenished but is not justified as being fully expended on actual legal services, then you not only have a defense but it would put the attorney in a poor position. You may wish to contact the attorney and discuss whether this should be resolved with assistance from the bar association as to what should properly have been billed. I'm going to assume that this probably isn't the case and move on.

    Let's assume that the attorney is actually billing you for work performed. Was it actually performed? Does the bill fairly and accurately represent the work that was performed? If the answer is yes, then that is what you owe and you will lose in court.If it does not, then you have your choices of how to handle it, either by filing a response to the lawsuit or negotiating with the attorney. As to how much is in dispute, that will depend upon (a) how much of the additional $5,000 wasn't actual work performed; and (b) how much of the work performed you believe was padded. Determine what the bill should have been and discuss it with the attorney. If that isn't amenable, then you have your ability to tell your side to the judge in court.

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