Lawyers have gained a reputation in some circles that is unsavory. Some of it warranted, most of it unwarranted. There are many honest lawyers in the world. However, it is always important that clients conduct a legal bill review to make sure that they are being billed fairly. Here are a few steps to make sure that you receive an appropriate bill.
Read your agreement. The first step happens before the trial even begins. It is very important that you read your entire bill agreement. Many disputes occur because the client signed something that they didn’t understand. Take your time to read the agreement, so you understand exactly what you are being billed for. If you do not understand something, make sure that it is clarified. Any attorney will be happy to clear up any misunderstanding you may have — if they do not, then this could be a red-flag right off the bat.
Compare your first bill to your agreement. When you receive your first bill, it is important that you compare it to your lawyer fee agreement. Your bill should be categorized so it is easy to determine how much you were billed for each service — time should be billed in tenth of an hour increme3nts with clear descriptions for the work being done. If you feel that you were billed more than you should have when you were doing your legal bill review, it is important that you take action. If you feel you are being billed unfairly, take it up with your lawyer — you should have the rapport with your attorney so that you can have this conversation in an open manner. If you can’t then this may be another red flag that your attorney may not be the right fit for you.
Try arbitration. If discussing with your lawyer is unproductive, you can arbitrate your disputes. Many attorney engagement agreements contain arbitration clauses, and many organizations specialize in this service. These hearings will bring your bill in front of an informal court. These legal fee experts will go through your bill and make sure that you were billed fairly. Of course, to employ this tactic, it is important to ensure that you have an arbitration clause in your fee agreement.
Use a bill review service. If you don’t want the headache of dealing with these issues, you can use a bill review service such as “devil’s advocate.” They will review your bill on a monthly basis and handle any issues for you.
Take legal action. Finally, if your relationship with your attorney has soured to the point where the above options are unproductive, and you feel that you were billed unfairly, you can always legal action. Unscrupulous attorneys can be reported to the Bar, or be sued.
**THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. IF THIS WERE, YOU WOULD RECEIVE A BILL.**