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  #1  
Old October 26th, 2013, 09:39 AM
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Any Lawyers Here?

Hey guys,

I am not looking for legal advise but just hoping for some input. I am trying to close on a house and retained a lawyer to read over the contracts. In his engagement letter he quoted us $250/hr for his services. Last week I asked him where we are in terms of fees and he says about $2000. I asked him to send me an itemized receipt. On the recepit he was charging me $300/hr. I send him a response and told him to read over his own contract and he says:

"Looking back it does quote $250. Though that was error I will adhere to it. I apologize, I will refigure the pre-bill."

So he sends me another prebill adjusted for the $250/hr rate but then bills me an additional 0.6 hrs to create/correct his mistake.

First of all he got the dates all wrong. In his corrected prebill he made 2 charges:

Oct 14 2013 for 0.4 hrs
Oct 16 2013 for 0.2 hrs

I asked for the original prebill and the correction on Oct 24 2013.

So besides the obvious incompetence and our complete loss of confidence in this guy (he doesn't even know what his own contract says), here is my question:

1. Is it common practice for lawyers to charge a fee for a receipt? It's like a server charging you $10 to bring you the receipt so you can pay the bill.

2. And is it normal to charge the client time for correcting their own clerical mistake?

Again not looking for legal advise but if this is considered normal in your line of work it would make me feel better about this guy. Thanks!
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  #2  
Old October 26th, 2013, 09:59 AM
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I am not a lawyer but that seems wrong. I know in my line of work if things are quoted incorrectly we always do it at the original price and would never even think to charge someone for correcting my clerical error.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 10:06 AM
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That sounds like BS to me.
I've used dirt-lawyers (closing attorneys) many times and have at least ten that are close friends of mine.
The rate (whether it's $250/$300hr) is pretty standard, but the errors right off the bat worry me. You pay these people to read every line......THOROUGHLY! They read and write contracts for a living, they are not courtroom litigators. So the one thing they are supposed to be good at is details.

Then there is the charging you for 0.6 hours to fix his/her mistakes. That's just bad form (although his admin/paralegal could be responsible for that).

Lastly, closing attorneys make tons of money from points on the title insurance policies they represent, so for example on a $500,000 mortgage (or owners policy if there is no mortgage) they make enough money to cover most of the legal costs (unless there are many drafts/rewrites and the negotiation becomes sticky-then you may see some out of pocket charges).

Either way, what I'm saying is that dirt lawyers are a dime a dozen. Go find a good one (or better t Han the one you have)

Just one guys opinion .
Good luck

EDIT: by the way. I don't know how FL BAR works, but in MA, attorneys are required to explain their billing process up front during the consult and advise you that you have the right to present billing disputes to the board of registration and arbitrators if you disagree with billable hours. no lawyer wants this. So if you get stuck with a bill for this guy's services to date, don't pay it! Just keep records and present to the BAR. I would think you'd formally fire this attorney and teenage another (hopefully on referral)
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  #4  
Old October 26th, 2013, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackie Treehorn View Post
..... by the way. I don't know how FL BAR works, but in MA, attorneys are required to explain their billing process up front during the consult and advise you that you have the right to present billing disputes to the board of registration and arbitrators if you disagree with billable hours. no lawyer wants this. So if you get stuck with a bill for this guy's services to date, don't pay it! Just keep records and present to the BAR. I would think you'd formally fire this attorney and teenage another (hopefully on referral)
Another point which I left out was that on the original bill there was a charge of 1.1hrs but at a rate of $0. We thought that was strange, that maybe he comp'ed us 1hr for something. This was corrected on the updated bill which further demonstrates to us how disorganized this guy/firm is.

We don't mind paying for services rendered if this is considered normal but to date, he has not given us any feedback about the contracts/titles/permits etc. I just assume no new is good news.

Either way, we have no confidence in him and we do not want him representing us at closing. We are in the process of drafting up an "attorney withdrawal request" and will be sending it by certified mail on Monday to his office. Our dilemma is paying for the correction fees. We are not looking to dispute the fees if they are legitimate, we just have no proof or any indication that the hours charged is true and correct. How can I prove it took him 2.3hrs to read a standard contract that took my wife and I 15 minutes to read. Or 1.5hrs to review a 6 page title?
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  #5  
Old October 26th, 2013, 11:15 AM
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Typically, the initial consult would be free, but that's up to the attorney. I don't know why you'd need an hour consult just to retain a closing attorney in a real estate transaction though. It's usually a pretty standard transaction.

Again, as far as I understand it, there is usually a process by which questionable billable hours can be disputed through the BAR, though if I were this particular attorney, I'd rather just void the bill than deal with inquiries made by the BAR.

Can you ask your Realtor or some other real estate professionals for some recommendations for other attorneys?
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  #6  
Old October 26th, 2013, 11:18 AM
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Unless it is complicated, I'm used to a fixed price on real estate fee of less than $1000.
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  #7  
Old October 26th, 2013, 12:18 PM
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A bank's attorney in Mass on a residential loan takes $500 as his fee for doing all the contracts. They make additional money from the title insurance fee title review. Did this guy have any real estate experience? My feeling is agree his fee and fire him. I do advise you to buy title insurance to protect yourself.
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  #8  
Old October 26th, 2013, 12:20 PM
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I would document everything, dispute the bill and send an inquire to the BAR. This guy is clearly unprofessional, and trying to play games with you.
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  #9  
Old October 26th, 2013, 12:42 PM
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Closing attorney's are a lot cheaper than that up here (where nothing is cheap). Either way this guy sounds like an ass clown. I'd just use someone else unless you are close to closing.
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  #10  
Old October 26th, 2013, 02:32 PM
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No and no to your two questions. I would call him and say, look I am paying X or I am not paying and disputing it with the bar association and if he agrees to X send a check notated "full satisfaction."
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  #11  
Old October 26th, 2013, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by woldd90 View Post
I would document everything, dispute the bill and send an inquire to the BAR. This guy is clearly unprofessional, and trying to play games with you.
I doubt the BAR will do anything other than tell you to contact a lawyer for "legal advise".
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  #12  
Old October 26th, 2013, 08:51 PM
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I doubt the BAR will do anything other than tell you to contact a lawyer for "legal advise".
Actually that is not true at all. The bar takes complaints like this very seriously.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 09:03 PM
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yup yup yup - what Ron said
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Old October 26th, 2013, 10:56 PM
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Actually that is not true at all. The bar takes complaints like this very seriously.
That's not my experiance
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Old October 26th, 2013, 11:26 PM
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Actually that is not true at all. The bar takes complaints like this very seriously.
I called the Florida Bar to inquire if this was common practice or ethical. They would not give me an answer directly. They said the lawyer can charge for anything they want. In order for them to tell me if this was normal or common practice I had to file a formal complaint against this lawyer, which was not my intent. I don't mind paying the fees if this is considered acceptable in this industry, but they won't give me an answer.

It's weird because before I could even talk to anyone at the Florida Bar I had to give my name and the lawyer's name before they would connect me to someone. I said I was not interested in filing a formal complaint, just for someone to tell me if this is common. The receptionist said I had to give the info before she could connect me to a lawyer at the Florida Bar to answer my question, which she wouldn't do unless I file formal charges. So in essence they had me running around in circles. What I don't get is why do they need to record our names if I was not interested in filing any charges? I just had a simple question and they wouldn't even answer it.
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  #16  
Old October 26th, 2013, 11:54 PM
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Just be direct with the attorney who sent you the bill. It's only a bill for like $200, correct?
Tell him that you had some issues early on and feel that you need to find other counsel. Furthermore, go on to say that you feel as though a bill to correct a contract that HE wrote is ridiculous. Mention the BAR compliant process and he will likely just say walk away. Ron is right, the BAR takes billing matters seriously because it's the very backbone of the profession and if the public's trust is lost in the system then ALL lawyers will have trouble.


Either way, it's really not worth a heck of a lot of hassle on your part. Just tell the guy he's done and you don't feel like he's earned anything.

Go find a decent attorney with experience and be done with this.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 11:57 PM
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You missed a digit.
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  #18  
Old October 27th, 2013, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by cgalpin View Post
You missed a digit.
I was only going off of the 0.6hrs he billed to correct the contract. If there are hours to create a contract or whatever, maybe he's responsible for some payment. I don't know, only seeing part of the story, but the part where he charges 0.6 hrs to fix his own mistakes is clearly ridiculous.
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Old October 27th, 2013, 12:18 AM
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Jackie T is right on the money.

I've had similar situations develop on deals where I've been funding the mortgage ( yes I'm a mortgage banker).

And they fire the guy when they realize the Bank's interest in the property and their own are in alignment .
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  #20  
Old October 27th, 2013, 12:54 AM
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Seriously just call him, explain the issue, tell him what you want to pay (if you are happy with the work) and 9/10 he will be happy and take the amount you offer.

Lawyers cut bills all the time especially in retail level law.
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