How can I get a refund of the bankruptcy fees if I decided not to go ahead with it? 20 Answers as of December 20, 2013

Because of a delinquent 2nd mortgage, my house was scheduled for sale on Dec 3rd, 2013. On Saturday, Nov 30 I met with a local bankruptcy firm for a "free consultation". Fearing I could be put out on the street, I gave them a down payment of 1200.00 dollars and signed an agreement. They told me they could not do anything until they saw my wife's Social Security card. I told them I would bring it back Monday along with other financial papers they needed from me. On Monday a friend offered to help me pay the lender and save my home. I called the bankruptcy law firm and told them I had resolved the situation on my own and would not be going forward with the bankruptcy. I assumed they would refund my money automatically as a charge back to my debit card but after 2 days I realized they had not. I called their office and asked about a refund of the 1200.00 and they said no refunds. I was shocked. They told me they would not proceed without seeing my wife's social security card. I have no itemized receipt, no copy of the document I signed and no copies of any paper work they claimed they worked on. I was angry. I called back and asked about a refund of the filing fee. They said they would refund that. They said they would mail it to me. It's been 5 days since that conversation and nothing. The only meeting I attended was the "Free" one. Is there something I can do to at least get most of my money back?

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David R. Fondren, Attorney at Law
David R. Fondren, Attorney at Law | David R. Fondren
This is not a bankruptcy question. This is a fee dispute question. Send a WRITTEN request for the refund and originals of all documents that is in YOUR file. If nothing is forth coming, file a fee dispute complaint with the mo bar.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 12/20/2013
Law Office of William Stoddard | William Stoddard
The agreement is probably one of those if you turn over cash it is "mine" even if I do nothing. The bar association does not like those kind of contracts. However, the attorney probably did more than he/she would have done in a free consult. Contact the bar association in Seattle and ask to a fee mediation.? They have a form. I suspect the attorney will offer to refund 50% of the paid fee, but keep in mind that might be okay too.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 12/13/2013
Law Office of Shawn N. Wright | Shawn N. Wright
You should have received a detailed fee agreement. The Bankruptcy Code requires attorneys to provide a written description of their fee structure within 3 days of the initial contact between client and attorney. I am presuming that the agreement you signed was indeed the fee agreement. You should obtain a copy of that agreement and see what your rights are. I am not sure what county you're in, but I know that in certain counties, and maybe with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, there is a fee dispute resolution program.
Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
Replied: 12/13/2013
The Law Office of Darren Aronow, PC
The Law Office of Darren Aronow, PC | Darren Aronow
You should look at the language in the retainer agreement
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 12/13/2013
Stuart P Gelberg
Stuart P Gelberg | Stuart P Gelberg
There is no such thing as a nonrefundable fee in NYS. However at some point in your meeting the free consult ended when you agreed to pay them a fee for a bkry. They are entitled to paid for the work actually performed. If the entire fee was paid and the bkry wasn't filed you are clearly entitled to a partial refund in addition to the filing fee. Waiting 5 days is not very long.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 12/13/2013
    Patrick W. Currin, Attorney at Law | Patrick Currin
    It is typical of fee agreements to have all down payments as non-refundable. In this case, however, if no work was done, the firm really should refund the entire fee. You might want to check out the California State Bar website. They have procedures for fee disputes.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/13/2013
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
    Contact the State Bar. That will get them moving on a refund.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/13/2013
    Deborah F Bowinski, Attorney & Counselor at Law | Debby Bowinski
    You should ask for copies of the documents you signed when you were at the lawyer's office. Those documents should state how and when the legal fees are earned by the attorney. It is likely that there is some amount of the funds you paid that the lawyer will be entitled to keep as an engagement retainer. However, it is also likely that if you are persistent they will refund at least a portion of your money - they cannot charge you fees that have no relation to the amount of time and effort expended on your behalf. If you are unable to get anywhere with the law office you might try contacting the local bar association to see whether they can assist with a fee dispute. If all else fails you could contact the office of attorney regulation in your state to see what help is available from them in resolving the fee dispute.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 12/13/2013
    R. Steven Chambers PLLC | R. Steven Chambers PLLC
    Yes. Contact the Utah State Bar Association and ask about the fee dispute resolution program.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    A Fresh Start
    A Fresh Start | Dorothy G Bunce
    Once you paid the law firm the money, they no doubt started working on your case, running your credit report and preparing the preliminary documents. Ask the attorney for a full accounting of the work performed on your case. You are entitled to a refund minus the charges for work that was actually performed, and what the fee agreement says doesn't supersede that right.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Mark S Cherry, Attorney at Law, PC
    Mark S Cherry, Attorney at Law, PC | Mark Cherry
    You can contact the "Fee Dispute Committee" of your District Attorney Ethics if you are in NJ. The attorney would still be entitled to the value of his her her services on an hourly basis. (quantum meruit) for actual work done beyond the free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    OlsenDaines, PC
    OlsenDaines, PC | Kristoffer Sperry
    Many law firm's fee agreements specify that money paid is "earned upon receipt" and will not be refunded. In your situation it may be possible that they performed quite a bit of work to quickly prepare the necessary documents to prevent the foreclosure that was happening in such a short time. It is possible that they provided a sufficient service to justify their fee even though you did not file the bankruptcy. Having said that, few firms would not consider a full or partial refund in your situation. The filing fee is not considered part of their fee and should be held in their trust account until you file, so that if you don't file it must be returned to you. Contact the firm and ask for a justification of their retaining the entire fee-like a billing report to see the work that was done. If you do not hear back from them or feel you have been dealt with unfairly you can contact your local bar and submit an inquiry.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Marjorie Guymon
    What does your fee agreement say? If it is silent on the issue of a refund, you should be able to recover your fees, less any time spent on your case. You should demand a written billing statement showing the time expended on your case and how the monies were applied. If you do not receive an acceptable response you should make a complaint to the State Bar.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    The Law Offices of Deborah Ann Stencel | Deborah A. Stencel
    There is no such thing as a non-refundable attorney fee in Wisconsin (and if you aren't in Wisconsin, the rule is likely the same but I cannot say for sure). Nevertheless, the lawyer could be entitled to keep a portion of your funds. Send a demand letter for a refund and request an itemized listing of time spent on your file justifying any funds retained. If you do not receive a reasonable refund within two weeks, file a complaint with State Bar. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Wellman Law LLC
    Wellman Law LLC | Keith A. Wellman
    Some states, like Kansas, do not allow non-refundable retainers. In those states I believe they would have to send you an accounting of any time spent AFTER the free initial consultation accounting what time or fees they are charging against the retainer. Even in states that do allow non-refundable retainers there may be rules regarding reasonableness that would not allow them to keep the entire amount. I think the bottom line is that you should send a written request for a copy of the contract, declare that you are terminating the contract and request a refund and/or accounting and go from there.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Garner Law Office
    Garner Law Office | Daniel Garner
    The most effective way to get what you want is to call them again and tell them if you don't get a full refund you will complain to the state bar. Nobody wants a bar complaint. Give them a date on which you will pick it up in cash.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Moore Taylor Law Firm, P.A.
    Moore Taylor Law Firm, P.A. | Jane Downey
    You could start by saying you want a copy of that retainer letter you signed.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Danville Law Group | Scott Jordan
    Did you sign a fee agreement with the law firm? Check the contract to see what the refund policy is. Most contracts say all fees paid are non-refundable.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Law Offices of Robert P. Taylor
    Law Offices of Robert P. Taylor | Robert P. Taylor
    In California you can file a complaint with the State Bar at or request fee dispute mediation/arbitration through your County Bar Association.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/11/2013
    Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson
    Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson | Lynnmarie Johnson
    Probably the "agreement" you signed was a retainer agreement that said no refunds, check and see. Read it over and if it doesn't say no refunds, call back and tell them that, but it probably does say no refunds. I would call them back and try speaking to the attorney that you met with to see if they will make an exception in your situation. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 12/11/2013
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