Is your attorney ripping you off and want to know “How To Sue a Lawyer for Overbilling & Ripping You OFF?” Here’s what you need to do…
In the past, it used to be that if you had a case that you needed to take to court, you could completely trust your attorney and just get by on a hand-shake.
Unfortunately, those days came to a close a long time ago. Today, there are many different areas where some lawyers will attempt to something underhanded.
In a word, some of them will “rip you off.” Double billing. Padded billing. Block billing.
It doesn’t matter what you call it, lawyers do it much more often than you let on.
How do you know when you should call a lawyer out on it? How would you go about suing a lawyer for “overbilling”?
Here are some steps you should take:
Recognize some of the red flags for deceptive billing practices.
In this case, knowledge is power. When it comes to the excessive billing practices of lawyers, there are usually three methods that they employ:
It has been claimed that 90 percent of lawyers will “block bill” their clients.
This unfortunate accounting technique is where a lawyer aggregates various smaller tasks into one hour whether they add up to an hour or not.
For example, if it takes 20 minutes to revise a subordinate lawyer’s legal motion, 5 minutes to make a business phone call, and 5 minutes to send an e-mail to a client, common sense says that the client should be billed for a half-hour.
However, a legal firm will often round these tasks up to a full hour.
Billable Hour Hoarding
This is a ploy where a legal firm will retain work with their more expensive attorneys to inflate the bottom line of the legal firm.
In this case, partners will often do the work of associates, associates will paralegal work, and paralegals will do menial secretarial tasks.
The best analogy would be this: it’s literally like Michelangelo charging Sistine chapel rates simply for painting a barn!
Lawyers will often bill their clients in increments of time. This usually means they bill by a half-hour or one-hour chunks.
However, this too will result in an outrageous bill simply because a lawyer could conceivably charge for 30 minutes when they only have done 10 minutes of work.
Considering that many clients charge upwards of $150-$300 an hour, this can add up in a hurry.
Make sure you fully understand and agree with your contract.
Ideally, you should require that your lawyer provides you with a written regarding all fees before they take the case.
The charges must be consistent with your agreement, otherwise, you should request that your lawyer send you a revised report where any errors are corrected.
If they fail to agree to this, you should go to the next step.
File a complaint with the state bar association.
What you want to find out here is whether your state bar association will offer any type of mediation services between you and your attorney. These will be free of charge, and this can be an easy way to recoup some of the unnecessary legal fees. However, if the dispute remains unresolved, it is time to retain legal counsel.
Suing your lawyer for malpractice.
“Overbilling” is one form of malpractice. However, it’s important to realize that there is no such thing as a lawsuit based solely on the practice of overbilling.
A lawsuit can be filed against your original attorney for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and breach of contract.
In the case of lawyer price gouging, your best bet would be to sue for breaching the contract.
To sue for overbilling, there is at least one situation that must be true:
The attorney is misusing your retainer fee.
In a normal attorney-client relationship, a retainer fee is paid for the lawyer to start working on the case.
When it comes to fees, the attorney will usually dip into the retainer fee and the client will continue to replenish the retainer for all of the time that the attorney has worked on the client’s case.
Although this is not as easy as it sounds, all a client has to do is prove the retainer fee is being misused to have a case.
They would have to follow certain steps to know if they have a case in this area.
Here is what they would have to consider:
Fire the old attorney and retain a new one.
Yes, it can be difficult to hire another lawyer right after you have been burned by the first one.
However, any type of lawsuit will require you to get a lawyer.
Unfortunately, the adage, “a client who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Discuss it with a malpractice attorney to see if you have a case.
Determine if it’s worth the extra stress.
You and your new attorney have to be determined to see this through because you can bet your bottom dollar that your old attorney will work to defend themselves better than how they worked on your case.
Establish proof regarding your case.
This can be tricky, but you are going to have to furnish proof that your lawyer has misappropriated your funds.
This usually means that you will hopefully have kept your record-keeping system. You will need to incorporate your accounting software such as Quickbooks and account for every hour.
Moreover, you always need to ask for the AMOUNT OF TIME that a lawyer has spent on every task regarding your case.
If the legal firm or the lawyer refuses to do this, it is a red flag that you should take up with your new attorney.
As you can see, suing an attorney can take a lot of preparation, organization and time. In summary, get ready for the fight of your life! But realize it will be worth it because it will hold these individuals in the legal profession accountable.