Monday, April 2, 2007

Outrageous Attorneys' Fees

There is nothing that gives an attorney a bad reputation more than an unreasonable attorneys' fees bill. I definitely do not believe that you should give your services away, and also feel that if a client is not paying their bill, you should be allowed to fire them without any further question or debate. However, I believe that an attorney's bill should always be reasonable considering the special circumstances of each and every case and I also believe that if there is any question concerning a charge on a bill, a client should be given the opportunity to dispute that charge. Larry Birkhead, one of a number of different men claiming paternity over Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, is currently in a dispute with his former attorney who charged him over $600,000.00 for legal fees. Mind you, the DNA testing has not yet come back, and we have yet to know who the putative father is, yet Ms. Opri, has charged Mr. Birkhead an outrageous amount of money for her fees. Whether or not these fees are reasonable will be up to a judge to decide if Larry Birkhead chooses to litigate the contents and line items for the bill. If you are faced with what you believe to be an unreasonable attorney's bill, it must be understood that the determination of reasonable attorneys' fees will use the following criteria:

1. What is a customary fee for similar matters;
2. Experience and reputation of the lawyer;
3. likelihood that the case will preclude the attorney from other employment;
4. time, novelty and complexity of the issues; and
5. Results obtained.

These criteria are generally referred to as the "Lodestar" criteria and can be found in greater detail at Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So.2d 697 (Fla. 1997). Most attorneys' fees are reasonable and fair, however, if you feel that your bill is rather high taking into account all the factors set forth above, speak with your attorney to have your concerns addressed.

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