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After paying a flat rate basic bankruptcy fee which included filing, can I be charged for services after the fact?

Rockford, IL |

The flat rate basic bankruptcy service and filing fee were paid in full. No further discussions were had in reference to there being possible additional costs. When the bankruptcy was contested and an additional court date was needed, the lawyer asked if I wished to proceed. At no time was it disclosed or discussed that this would incur additional, itemized fees. I have since, after the bankruptcy has been fully resolved with the court, received an itemized bill that is billing for things as menial as me stopping by said lawyer's office to sign a paper(never spoke to or saw lawyer on these occasions). Have also been billed for a court appearance and travel time yet the lawyer never actually came in to the court room or counseled me on that day. Can I be charged both flat and itemized?

Attorney Answers 7


  1. You should examine your fee agreement with the lawyer relative to what was included and not included with your flat fee. You can also review the 2016 statement included as part of your bankruptcy petition which will spell out what was included and not included with the fee.


  2. Did you and your lawyer enter into a written contract regarding fees? I specifically state in my fee agreement that additional fees will be charged for contested matters. I think it is reasonable for an attorney to charge additional fees for additional work. But of course the fees must be reasonable and it must be for work that is actually done. You should not be billed for a court appearance the lawyer didn't attend. Call the attorney and talk to him about his bill. Ask him to make an adjustment.

    The information provided herein is general information only and not legal advice. The information provided herein does not create an attorney client relationship and is not a substitute for having a consultation with an attorney. It is important to have a consultation with an attorney as the information provided in this forum is limited and cannot possibly cover all potential issues in a given situation.


  3. The retainer agreement you have with your attorney should specify whether additional work performed after the case is filed is part of the flat bankruptcy fee or not. Representation in an adversary proceeding is not usually included in the basic bankruptcy fee. Adversary proceedings are a type of lawsuit separate from the bankruptcy case. My fee agreement specifies what is covered by the fee and what is not. Talk to your attorney.

    The information provided herein is general information only and not legal advice. The information provided herein does not create an attorney client relationship and is not a substitute for having a consultation with an attorney. It is important to have a consultation with an attorney as the information provided in this forum is limited and cannot possibly cover all potential issues in a given situation.


  4. The Fee Agreement will control what services are included in the basic fee. It is not uncommon for services that do not occur in most cases to be subject to additional fees. Of course, the attorney should not charge for services not provided. To answer the questions, yes, you can be charged a flat fee for the usual events on a Chapter 7 and then an itemized amount for unusual events. Check the Fee Agreement you, presumably, signed.

    Please remember to mark my answer as "helpful" or even the "best" if that is the case. My response is general information not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. Seek advice from a qualified attorney to see how the law fits your specific facts. I am licensed to practice law in Washington and Oregon. www. RRLawGroup.com


  5. The answer to your question depends on the language in the retainer agreement you signed with your attorney.


  6. The answer depends on the fee agreement (that is where the disclosure would be about you being liable to pay additional fees).

    Almost universally, the fixed fee you pay for bankruptcy covers work up to the DATE your bankruptcy is filed. Any work performed after the filing date is not included in the fixed fee and is charged separately. However, you need to read your fee agreement.

    Keep in mind, you pay law firms for the TIME spent handling your matter. And yes, that includes menial task because even menial tasks take up time.


  7. Since October 17th of 2005, all attorney fee contracts in bankruptcy cases involving consumer debtors must be in writing and signed before the case is ever filed. My reading of this part of the statute leads me to conclude that once the bankruptcy case is filed the parties are bound to the terms of that agreement and no modifications are permitted except as necessary to construe the contract to resolve an ambiguity in its language or strike parts that are either illegal or unconscionable, and this can only be done be a court and only then in narrow circumstances. That said, an *adversary proceeding* is *not* part of the core bankruptcy case - it is a completely separate lawsuit. Therefore, arguably, the law permits the parties to make a new contract with respect to these kinds of proceedings. Good luck!

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