"It Depends..." One of the first things people want to know about attorneys is how much it will cost. Unfortunately, the answer to this always starts out with "It depends." Very few things we do are simple enough that we can offer a set price in advance. What we can say is that we will do all we can to minimize your fees and costs to give you the best return on your money. Given our experience and expertise, we can often save you money over other law firms that may charge less per hour but cost you more in the long run.
Bloomfield Law Group, Inc., bills by the hour for most cases, with hourly rates ranging from $110 per hour for clerical and paralegal time to $280 to $425 for attorney time. Most law firms don't want to put this information on their web site because they are afraid it will scare off customers before the attorney has a chance to impress the potential client with their charm, skill and expertise. We feel that you need to go in with your eyes open to understand the realities of representation.
We do not have the lowest fees for the area, but we have kept our rates down below competitors who have a lesser proficiency because we recognize the burden attorney fees are for the majority of us who have some but not unlimited resources and have urgent legal needs. We work with our clients to allow affordable payments and offer generous discounts for quick payments. We accept credit cards with slightly higher pricing for legal service purchases. You are also in control of your bill, being given monthly detailed statements which allow you to understand how time is spent and take an active role in how your case is prosecuted.
Fees are negotiated in advance, and our fee agreements set forth in clear, non-technical English not only what our duties and responsibilities are also how exactly our services will be billed.
In some cases, we can offer a fixed fee up front based upon the nature of your case (for example, a simple will, a simple revocable trust, or a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing). We may also be able to quote a fixed fee for limited representation and appearances or document/contract review. These possibilities will be explored during your initial free 30-minute appointment.
Estimates of Fees and Costs
While we can never predict exactly what your final bill will be in a complex case, we often can give you an estimate of what it will cost to provide the services you are requesting. We can also establish a limit for expenditures that keeps you in control, and our frequent detailed billing allows you to monitor and control costs. We can give general guidelines based upon experience of what cost ranges may be, but each case is unique and how the other side behaves will in many ways control fees and costs.
We do take some cases on a contingency basis, which means our fee recovery is based upon a percentage what we recover for you. However, be aware that most if not all firms who advertise "you pay nothing unless we win" mean "you don't pay our fees unless we win, but you pay court costs and other expenses." These costs can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars in even a simple case (for example, a filing fee for a lawsuit in Marin County is $395 as of November 2011). If you contact another lawyer who offers a contingency fee make certain you understand that you might be billed for significant costs even if you do not prevail.
Some cases, including most of family law (divorce, child custody, child support) cannot be handled on a contingency basis. Some document preparation services will offer a flat fee for assisting you with the preparation and filing of divorce papers, and these low-cost alternatives to lawyers may be appropriate if you have a simple uncontested divorce.
We use contingency fees for personal injury and accident representation, as well as some civil and business litigation. Whether we will handle a case on a contingency fee is decided on a case-by-case basis. We usually will be able to determine whether your case qualifies for a contingency fee retainer agreement during your initial free 30-minute appointment.
In all cases aside from contingency fee agreements we will need a retainer up front before doing significant work on your case. Retainer amounts vary greatly depending mostly on our estimate of the complexity of the case but partly on the source of payments. In many of our divorce cases, for example, if you are the spouse with less financial resources and earnings we often can get the court to order the other spouse to pay our fees per California law, so we may require a smaller retainer from a non-working spouse or the spouse with less earnings and financial resources.
We require retainers as low as $500 and as high as $25,000 depending upon the case and our evaluation of the time we will spend on it. A retainer is not an estimate of final costs; it is more a guarantee that we have funds available to cover costs and fees as we go forward. Our retainers are normally applied to bills as they are issued, and the client then is asked to "re-fill" or replenish the retainer that we keep in a trust fund for the amount expended for costs and fees as billed.