- Hilary Hunt
How much do Florida Family Law attorneys charge?
So, this is a little different than my previous post about 'what' Florida family law attorneys charge for. Here, I'd like to discuss 'how' and really, 'how much,' they actually charge.
To start, most Florida family lawyers charge by the hour. How much? This varies specifically on the particular attorney you choose. Here, in South Florida, I've seen rates from $150 per hour to $600 per hour. Some attorneys charge one rate for every single one of their clients; some change their rates based on the complexity of the case, the difficulty of the client or opposing attorney, or the expected time engagement given the facts of the particular matter.
Don't stop reading now! Here's where clients tend to get surprised. Your retainer may be only the first payment you make. Once your attorney spends the hours built into that retainer, you will likely be asked for an additional retainer. The better attorneys can listen to your case and if everyone has a good idea of the issues and what to expect, your retainer is more likely to be the only payment you make.
So, retainers: What are we talking about here? This is a fee that you pay to begin the case. It can be broken down into a payment plan, but it is simply an advance fee an attorney will accept to take your case. It can be nonrefundable as well. Generally, I see contracts that designate the first retainer fee to be nonrefundable, usually meaning it is earned upon receipt. So, if the attorney begins work on the case and you decide to dismiss it 3 weeks later, your retainer is 'retained' by your lawyer.
Is this fair? Well, to the client, maybe it doesn't feel so. Consider this, though: the attorney met with the client, reviewed paperwork, considered the issues, and determined a strategy. The attorney has to consider his caseload and how much time he has to spend on the case, and may forego taking other cases so that he can focus appropriately on each one in his practice. He gave up other opportunities based on the contract and commitment that he and the client made to one another.
Now, once you've exhausted your retainer, your attorney may ask for additional funds. Usually, these are considered unearned and the attorney will 'draw' from them once work is completed. If there is a balance remaining after your case is ended, generally, you are entitled to it being returned.
If you have questions about your fee agreement, make sure you ask them before you sign a contract.
And stay tuned for other posts regarding 'flat fees.'