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An attorney gives you a set rate. Can they charge extra for motion filing fees? Is that not part of their representation?

Charlotte, NC |

I paid him thousands of dollars and he wants more for filing the motion to the court. Subpoena's I could understand, but it's logical that a motion will need to be filed, to carry through with a case.

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Attorney answers 3


Look at your retainer agreement, this should tell you what costs are included. Typically, "fixed fee" representation covers the attorneys fees, but does NOT cover some out of pocket costs and "disbursements" that the lawyer may have to make, in particular, court filing fees, deposition transcripts, and investigators or outside forensic investigators such as physicians, engineers, etc. who may be required to testify as to your claims.

Other smaller "out of pocket" costs the attorney incurs such as photocopies and postage, etc. may or may not be covered in the fixed fee. But typically, court filing fees are not included in the fees and the client is responsible for paying them or advancing the funds as needed.

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Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz


p.s. It may be logical that a filing fee is needed to commence an action, but motions are usually optional or made as required by circumstances or unforseeable developments in a matter. So it's not logical that motion filing fees would be included because they may or may not be incurred.


I agree with Mr. Lebowitz. Litigants pay filing fees and court costs, not the lawyers who represent them, although those lawyers may advance the fees. Typically a fee agreement spells out the lawyer's hourly rate, and also indicates that the client is responsible for fees. I never saw one that made the lawyer responsible for the filing fees. And if there is a fee for filing a motion, well, the client is, under general principles, on the hook for that too: it's a "cost."

Not legal advice as I don't practice law in North Carolina. It's just my two cents on the facts you describe in light of general principles of legal practice. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds North Carolina licensure. That's not me.

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz


Me either, but I've never heard of filing fees being included in most matters that typically require them but are offered on a "fixed fee" basis (in particular, actions for "uncontested" divorces and bankruptcy).


You have to study the retainer agreement you executed with your attorney. If there is no such agreement, look to North Carolina law as to the necessity of a retainer agreement for the area of practice your case involves. Most court system across the country require retainer agreements and in some types of cases, these must be filed with the court. However, if your case is missing a retainer agreement or does not specify the exact terms of the representation, then you owe for motions.

We cannot declare the rights and responsibilities of clients and their lawyers here on Avvo. Instead, we can take a guess given the facts as presented that your lawyer did not intend to include motions into his representation. Why? For example, if this is a special court proceeding, motions may require leave of court, so representation is assumed without motions. We just don't know because you did not supply us with enough case details.

What we can say is that if your retainer excludes 'costs' and 'fees', then you have to reimburse the attorney those costs and fees. We can also say that litigation is expensive and if you want to float a case in a court, be prepared for the expenditure of some funds. I had a divorce case come to my office where the plaintiff (the filer of the case) said he had no money. I asked him why doesn't he withdraw his case and stay married if he did not have the money. The client left my office upset. I cannot imagine the results he expects wanting to spend nothing on a divorce.

Good luck on your case.

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