Owner and founding attorney, Joseph Scrofano discusses how the firm bills clients with flat fees. When you are under investigation or facing a criminal charge, uncertainty is everywhere. Its uncertain whether you may go to jail or lose your license or be put on probation. At Scrofano Law PC, whether it’s a DUI case or a serious felony, we charge flat fee billing. In a case evaluation, each attorney will go over the facts of your case and determine a fee based on a number of variables, including, among other things, the complexity of the case and the likelihood the case will go to trial.
Each individual case is different so as a policy we generally do not give price quotes over the phone. The reason for this policy is the attorney needs to assess the demands of each case in formulating a fair, flat fee. A traditional method for payment that attorneys accept is hourly billing. In an hourly billing model, the client puts a retainer down for let’s say $5,000.00. The lawyer informs the client that her rate is $400.00 per hour. The lawyer keeps track of time and bills against the $5,000.00 retainer at $400.00 per hour. In that relationship, every time the lawyer texts, calls, or emails the client, the meter is running. Every minute spent thinking about the case gets billed to the client at an hourly rate.
As you can imagine, hourly billing can explode under difficult circumstances. Criminal cases, in general, create difficult circumstances. With an hourly billing model, you don’t know what your total legal bill could cost. In any consultation with a criminal and DUI defense attorney, you should ask careful and thorough questions about the billing process. The firm should prepare a retainer agreement or engagement letter that sets forth, in writing, the scope of the representation, the billing method, and any payment plan. The written agreement should also set forth the rights and responsibilities of the attorney and client.
In the District of Columbia, the Rules of Professional Conduct require that even cases where the attorney and client agree on a flat fee amount, that the money must be placed in the client trust account. Legal ethics opinions in DC require the money only be transferred in designated “benchmarks” in the expected litigation. So, another question to ask before signing any written legal fee agreement with a DC criminal defense lawyer is what benchmarks trigger disbursement from the trust account to the firm’s operating account.
At Scrofano Law PC, we bill flat fees on all criminal cases and investigations. Once the fee is set, you will never be billed again for the same matter. If you have questions about your case, our attorneys will take the time needed to make sure you understand all your options whether in person, over the phone, over email, or even over text message. The amount of time you spend with your attorney will not increase the bill. At Scrofano Law PC, we want you to have certainty in a very uncertain time for you whether its a DUI case or some other charge. If you are someone you know is under investigation or facing a criminal charge, contact Scrofano Law PC for a full case evaluation.
In re Mance, 11-BG-1357, January 26, 2012.
More Blog Posts:
DC DUI and DWI Plea Negotiations, August 28, 2013, No Papered: A Washington DC DUI Lawyer Blog.