How do I nicely tell my attorney that he is billing me for ridiculous things in a way that he will cancel the charges? 10 Answers as of November 05, 2013

Unprovoked and unnecessarily, he emailed me a one sentence question. I responded with three sentences, with the third sentence stating that I would let him know whichever way the issue turned out. Four days later, I informed him of the situation with a 5 sentence email. He responded with the word, "wow". The unprovoked sentence and my response were invoiced to me at $70 and $35 respectively for the service of “REVIEW EMAIL”. My second response and his one word email was invoiced for $35 as “REVIEW EMAIL”. $140 total for something unprovoked and claimed to have taken 0.4 hours but actually took less than one minute. I think this is unreasonable and every lay person I've shown this to thinks it is ridiculous. So how do you recommend I respond to this invoice?

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Oscar E. Toscano | Oscar E. Toscano
Lawyers bill on an hourly basis. Our knowledge and expertise is conveyed by time spent. My computer program allows me to bill on 1/10 of an hour basis. This means that from 0-6 minutes, it will be billed at 1/10th of an hour. If I read a lot of emails at the same time, I will exercise my own judgment and compile the charge as "Review of emails" and charge for one period of time. I see a lot of lawyers billing on 1/4 of an hour basis. In other words, they would bill you for 15 minutes and not for 1/10th of an hour. His manner of billing is within the practice of what I see. If you have a good relationship with your lawyer, simply ask him if he would consider giving you a discount. Most lawyers appreciate clients that pay on time and will work discounts on their bills. I know I do.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/5/2013
John Russo | John Russo
This is not a legal question, if you have a dispute over fee's contact the attorney and talk to them, but basing your opinion on what lay people think is not the correct way to handle this.
Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
Replied: 11/5/2013
The Law Offices of Tres A. Porter | Tres A. Porter
The first question is whether or not the information was pertinent to your case. If it was, then the next question is whether or not the billing was reasonable. In most law offices .1 hrs is the minimum billing unit (6 minutes) and most fee agreements will spell that out rather clearly, it simply is too cumbersome to try and bill in units of less than tenths of an hour. It sounds like you had three billing increments of .2, .1, and .1 with an attorney billing rate of $350 per hour, which is about the minimum possible billing for something like what you have described. In my practice, I frequently round these down or combine something like this into one entry, but some people insist on seeing every individual charge, which is your right as the client. If this truly bothers you, then you and your attorney should have a meeting regarding going forward because in most cases billing entries like this are very common and you and your attorney are likely going to run into a number of difficulties in the future if you find this billing to be "ridiculous". You have not mentioned how far you are in the proceedings, but in the scheme of most litigation an entry of .4 hours is a small fraction of the overall cost. I am a sole partner and owner of my firm so I have the ability to absorb or give a courtesy to the client for entries like this but depending on the content or nature of the information exchanged in your 10 sentences I would consider the billing within the bounds of reasonable. Obviously if it had little to no bearing on any issue in your case, this would be a different story. You certainly have a right to ask to have the amount reduced, but if one of my clients questioned my bills over something like this, I would likely refund whatever retainer was remaining and request that they find different representation because the two of you are obviously not on the same page.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/5/2013
Law Office of Robert E McCall | Robert McCall
The Florida Bar has a program to resolve billing disputes; contact them at FLABAR.ORG. Robert
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 10/31/2013
Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
I would suggest you consider the attorney's situation, twice you interrupted his chain of thought and therefore took his time. Many attorneys' charge .25 to .3 minimum per communication are that is what an interruption actually costs them in time. I would ask he reconsidered the billing and thereafter you be more judicious about your contacting him. If you wish to take his time and seek his opinion then you must also be prepared to pay for it, it is what he does for a living - and I am sure you do not work for free.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 10/31/2013
    Provda Law Firm
    Provda Law Firm | Bruce Provda
    I think you should sit down with your attorney and discuss the matter. Most attorneys bill by their time being used, be it in writing a letter or making a phone call. You need to work together so have a talk.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Law Office of Cassandra Savoy
    Law Office of Cassandra Savoy | Cassandra Savoy
    Have a frank and honest conversation about billing.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Peters Law, PLLC
    Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
    Except for the fact that it took time away from other things that he was doing. Many attorneys have minimum charges for e-mails and telephone calls. However, the easiest way to do that is to tell him that you think the charges are unwarranted and should be removed.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Diane l. Berger | Diane L. Berger
    If you are satisfied with your attorney in every other way, I would recommend that you simply state the obvious: you are concerned about the billing of those two incidents. Some attorneys do charge a minimum for every contact and if that is the case it should be in your contract or letter agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 10/31/2013
    Glenn Milgraum PC
    Glenn Milgraum PC | Glenn P. Milgraum
    First review your "retainer agreement" to see if you authorized charges such as these, after all the attorney may have to open your file and review it before sending you the 1 sentence e-mail, which takes time. If you still think the charge is ridiculous you should ask him politely to remove the charge (for reasons stated) and ask to revise your retainer agreement so that there is no charge for e-mail communications that are of a particular length or takes less than 3 minutes to handle.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/31/2013
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