How Are Family Lawyer Retainer Fees Charged?
By Orlando Divorce Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2015
Family Law Attorney Fees Are Different
Family law attorneys face many unique challenges, But the “elephant in the room” that still needs to be addressed are attorney’s fees. In particular, I want to discuss why the fees charged by Florida family law attorneys are different from those of other attorneys. These are the three main forces that drive the way that family lawyers charge their fees and how AAA Family Law deals with them:
Family Lawyers Do Not Have A Simple Measure Of Their Service Categories Or Values
This principle underlies all of all of the other factors. Family lawyers do not provide quantifiable services. We also do not have a menu of routine standard services to offer the way a typical automotive repair shop charges $19.99 for an oil change. No two divorces, paternity actions, relocations, etc., are the same. Some are much more complex than other and therefore, take more time. That is why the only measure we have left use for setting prices is how much time we spend on your case.
Florida Family Lawyers Cannot Charge Contingency Fees
Over the last few decades, the general public has been bombarded with lawyer advertisements that scream “No fees unless you win!” This has led many of my potential clients to believe that I can offer them a plan for payment as a percent of their compensation.
But the Florida Bar expressly prohibits family law attorneys from charging contingency fees. The policy reasons for this rule are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say, contingency fees are not an option for family law attorneys. And some family law cases, such as adoptions, prenuptial agreements and some injunctions, are not about one party paying the other.
Family Lawyers Have Limited Means to Collect Unpaid Fees
One factor behind attorneys’ upfront fees is the lack of leverage we have to collect from our clients. Reverting back to the mechanic comparison, family law attorneys can’t hold your car hostage (or anything else except your file) until you pay them.
The Florida Supreme Court also ruled several years ago that this state’s homestead exemption prevents any lawyer from putting a lien on a client’s home. Theoretically, a law firm may sue a client for unpaid fees, but the amount owed usually does not justify the time and resources that are required to collect them. In the end, a family law attorney’s only safeguard against working for free is an initial retainer payment.
AAA Family Law Mitigates These Three Problems
Even a modest attorney retainer fee represents a major expense for many family law clients. With this in mind, I make my fees more manageable and predictable in two ways: (a) I offer payment plans in many of my cases and (b) in almost all of cases, we offer a flat-fee retainer, instead of an hourly retainer. With a flat-fee retainer, my client does not have to stress about how much each phone call or e-mail will cost or won’t be shocked by the monthly bills. Instead, I estimate how many hours I will spend on your case based on its degree of complexity and charge an appropriate flat fee that you will know before making a payment or signing a contract. For additional information please see the AAA Family Law page Retainer Fees.
If you have any questions about my fees, or any family law matter, I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001 and make an appointment for an initial consultation. There, I will learn about your case, explain my plan to achieve your legal objectives and quote you my lawyer retainer fee.
For more information of AAA Family Law retainer fees, please see: