Attorney Fees in North Carolina: Fact vs. Fiction
Attorney Hank Doyle addresses the issue of attorney costs and getting a quick answer on what a case may cost isn't always possible.
In my over 25 years of practice in Cary, Raleigh, Wake Forest, and across NC, one of the common things I hear has to do with attorney fees. People are frustrated as to why they can’t call a lawyer and get a quick answer as to what their case is going to cost them.
People often ask, "I have a simple case (they think) and when I call lawyers to find out what they will charge to take care of my case, I can never get a straight answer. Why do some attorneys dodge the question or give a vague answer to such a simple (again, they think) question?"
Q: "When I call lawyers to find out what they will charge for my simple case, I can never get a straight answer. Why do some attorneys dodge the question or give a vague answer?"
There are several important reasons people sometimes have this experience.
1. Rules for Setting Fees
Lawyers in North Carolina are required to follow a specific set of ethical rules known as the Rules of Professional Conduct, as set forth by the North Carolina State Bar. These rules lay out the kinds of fee arrangements that can be made, how fees can be collected, what types of fees can be collected in different kinds of cases, and other restrictions.
Attorneys are strictly forbidden to get together and set fees. There may be a range that certain legal services may cost in certain geographical areas, but there are no “standard” fees or “going rates” for attorney fees.
The State Bar has the power to discipline lawyers who run afoul of these rules in a variety of ways, including taking away the lawyer’s license to practice law. Understandably, lawyers are very careful to avoid violating these rules.
2. It's Never What It Seems
Often, it is very difficult for a lawyer to gain a full understanding of the client’s case or what kind of representation will be needed in a brief phone call or email.
In my years of practice, there have been literally hundreds of instances where I discover during the initial consultation that the needs of the client or the complexity of the case are vastly different than what the client honestly thought when the appointment was made.
It is a disservice to the client and to the lawyer for a legal fee to be hastily quoted over the phone, only to discover later on that the fee is going to be something much different. A prudent lawyer will want to meet the prospective client and gain a thorough understanding of the case before s/he will discuss what the legal fees may be.
3. Look at the Whole Picture (You Get What You Pay For)
Picking a lawyer solely because s/he has the lowest fee may end in disappointment. It's important to evaluate an attorney's complete set of credentials and not just their pay rate.
Attorneys charge clients based on their level of experience and training, the complexity of the work required, and other factors. So as with most things, the cheapest is not usually best.
Lawyers that have the cheapest fees may not provide the one-on-one attention required for your case, which can have severe consequences and end up costing you even more in the long run.
"What About Your Attorney Fees, Hank?"
For over 25 years, I've assisted clients in Civil Litigation, Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning, Personal Injury, Business Law, and more. Across these practice areas, our firm has a variety of fee schedules and can work with you to customize one that fits for you.
Learn more about our firm's attorney fees >>
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