Many prospective clients hiring an attorney for the first time do not understand how legal fees are paid, retained, earned, returned, and refunded. Oftentimes, this confusion leads to unnecessary animosity between attorney and client. This animosity can be avoided if the distinctions are clearly explained at the onset, and the process remains transparent throughout the course of the representation.
Simas & Associates, Ltd., is committed to a high level of client service. This includes clearly communicating the costs associated with the representation and the process we use to facilitate payment of fees. Below, please find our explanation for the process and the distinction between the return of unearned legal fees and refunds.
Hiring Simas & Associates: Retainer Fee
Most clients hire Simas & Associates, Ltd., through a Retainer Fee Agreement. This means that monies are paid to Simas & Associates, Ltd., in advance of service. The amount paid in advance is dependent upon the service that is going to be rendered and the circumstances the client is presently facing.
The fees paid in advance are not earned in advance. Rather, they are retained by Simas & Associates, Ltd., in a client trust account. While in the client trust account, they remain the client’s money, to be withdrawn upon request.
In a retainer fee agreement, Simas & Associates, Ltd., earns fees upon working on a client’s matter. These fees accrue at different rates depending on who is performing the service—an attorney or a paralegal—or for costs that accrue in servicing the client (e.g. filing fees, research fees, mileage, etc.). Every month, Simas & Associates, Ltd., will send an invoice of its fees and costs for the client to review and correct, if necessary. If there are no changes, Simas & Associates, Ltd., will then debit monies from the client’s trust account to pay the monthly charges.
Final Invoices and Reimbursed Retainer Fees
If the client’s matter is completed and there are outstanding fees and costs, and no monies in the client’s trust account, the client may receive a final invoice from Simas & Associates, Ltd., of these final fees and costs. Alternatively, if the client’s matter is completed and all outstanding fees and costs are paid, and monies still remain in the client’s trust account, those monies are considered unearned fees. In the event of case completion, Simas & Associates, Ltd., promptly returns all the remaining unearned fees to the client.
Refunds vs Reimbursements
Refunds are separate from the normal, above process of paying, retaining, earning, and returning legal fees. Rather, refunds are typically the result of an after-the-fact fee dispute, accounting error, or a statement from the client conveying displeasure with the quality of legal services provided.
Simas & Associates, Ltd., processes all written requests for refunds. Our firm will review the entire contents of the client’s physical, electronic, and billing file when processing the request. Within thirty (30) days, our firm will send a written response either denying the request, requesting more information, or granting the request. The decision as to the response remains completely within the discretion of the law firm.
Ultimately, the attorneys and staff at Simas & Associates, Ltd., would like to avoid the need of ever having to consider a refund. We are always aiming to be as transparent in our representation as possible. So we encourage our clients to ask their questions or communicate their concerns to our office immediately. We will then try to answer or address immediately. Such a process also permits our firm to continue to grow and improve its services. For example, we may change an internal process or add language to our attorney-client fee agreement to prevent the misunderstanding in the future.
So, please keep the above in mind as you make your decision to hire an attorney.