Can I get a refund for my attorney fees from my bankruptcy case? 20 Answers as of June 24, 2011

I paid a lawyer in full over two years ago to file bankruptcy. I have since had many problems which have prevented me from doing a lot of the paperwork the lawyer wanted done. Can I get my money back at this late date?

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Sariol Legal Center
Sariol Legal Center | Frank R. Sariol
It depends on the type of Retainer Agreement you signed with your lawyer. If it is a flat fee, non-refundable agreement, then you may not. Read carefully the Agreement as it should tell you. Then call your attorney and ask him to refund, if not all, part of the fees.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/24/2011
Carballo Law Offices
Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
You should have a written contract with the attorney that will answer your question. A written contract is required by the California Bar if anticipated fees are going to be over $1,000. If no written contract and fees were under $1,000, then it will depend on how much time the attorney spent in your case and the attorney's reasonable or agreed hourly rate. You can get a refund of the court filing fee given the attorney since that will not be spent.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/23/2011
Law Office of J. Thomas Black, P.C.
Law Office of J. Thomas Black, P.C. | J. Thomas Black
You and your lawyer probably signed a written contract concerning the attorney fees. You should read your contract to determine what your rights are with respect to obtaining a refund. I don't know what your contract says, but many consumer bankruptcy attorneys charge lower, "flat" fees for bankruptcy, in return for the client agreeing that there will be no refunds, whether or not the case is discontinued or dismissed. This practice has been approved by our 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case called Barron v Countryman, 432 F.3d 590 (5th Cir. 2005). On the other hand, an attorney is ethically prohibited from charging clearly excessive fees; the rules vary by state. But if your lawyer has had to work on your case, and deal with your open file for two years, whatever your personal problems, and he had in his contract that his fee was not refundable, I would have a hard time finding that his or her fees were clearly excessive.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 6/23/2011
Burnham & Associates
Burnham & Associates | Stephanie K. Burnham
This may depend on the Fee Agreement between you and the attorney who you were working with.
Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
Replied: 6/23/2011
Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
The lawyer is entitled to be paid for the time he or she has put into the case already. The balance should be yours. In California there is no such thing as a retainer that is non-refundable. That may be different where you live.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/23/2011
    Law Office of Margaret D. Wilson
    Law Office of Margaret D. Wilson | Margaret Wilson
    In California most bankruptcy retainers provide that the attorney's fees are non-refundable or only a portion of the fees paid are refundable. Therefore, the answer to your question depends on the retainer agreement you signed with the attorney. If you don't have a copy of it you can request it from the attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/23/2011
    Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis
    Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis | Eric Lewis
    I supposed it depends on the relation between how much you have paid and how much the attorney has earned. I would venture to guess that unless it was some extremely high amount, the lawyer has earned every penny of that money by having to keep your file open for over two years.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 6/23/2011
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis | Todd Mannis
    Kind of weak to ask that he refund you when he took his time to consult with you, opened and maintained the file for two years, and you've indicated that the delay was your fault, not his.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc.
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc. | David VanDyke
    Maybe. It depends on the agreement that you signed with him. Most attorney fee agreements require that you file within a certain time period. Even if this is the case he may still give you at least part of it back. You need to call and ask him.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Offices of Alexzander C. J. Adams, P.C.
    Law Offices of Alexzander C. J. Adams, P.C. | Alexzander Adams
    It depends on how much work the attorney did. If the attorney screened your creditors and advised you, the fact that you had trouble completing your end of the deal is probably not a valid reason for getting back your attorney fees. You should look to the language of your attorney fee agreement to make a final determination, and you may want to consult your states rules of professional conduct.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Badgley Law Group
    Badgley Law Group | Jeffrey Badgley
    Most likely not. Most agreements between bankruptcy lawyers and their clients specify that fees received are flat fees that are earned upon receipt. You should review the written agreement to see what it says about this issue. If you feel that the attorney did not do any work at all, you may wish to consult the ethical standards for the state where the lawyer practices. Many ethics standards prohibit flat fees that are not proportional to the value given to the client.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC | Richard James Symmes
    Its possible to get a refund on your bankruptcy case if the attorney has not performed any work on your case. Usually in a situation like this I would take a small retainer for my time and give a refund for the remainder of the fee if no work was performed.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    Maybe but probably not. The answer depends on the fee contract and the details. In my practice the MOST time consuming part of a bankruptcy case are the phone calls and interviews to get information, and they are MORE time consuming when a person comes in unprepared. Additionally, when I set appointments I am limited in setting other appointments at the same time, and in the total volume of cases I can handle. So taking your case may mean turning a last minute emergency case down. I'd suggest that you call him and see what he says as the answer does depend on the above.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall
    Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall | William M. Rubendall
    You may be entitled to a refund for fees not earned. Expect that some fees will have been earned. Ask the attorney for a reasonable refund. One idea is to ask for half of the money paid. If you are not being treated fairly contact the local bar association or the state bar. Alternatively, you could file a small claims court action.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
    Two years is a long time, especially when the lapse isn't caused by the lawyer. You need to see what the fee agreement says, find out how much time s/he put in, and talk to him/her about it.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Offices of Virginia E. Fortunato
    Law Offices of Virginia E. Fortunato | Virginia E. Fortunato
    This will depend on your retainer agreement with that attorney and how much work that attorney has done for you over the past two years. Request an itemized bill from the attorney with any unused portion of the retainer, if any, refunded to you.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Jackson White, PC
    Jackson White, PC | Spencer Hale
    You need to talk to the attorney. I don't know what the fee agreement says. You should consult the fee agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 6/22/2011
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