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Should I look for a different attorney?

Los Angeles, CA |
Filed under: Professional ethics

I am looking to hire a business attorney for a legal issue. Today I met with a lawyer and he said that if the case goes into litigation, it could end up costing me 40 to 50k. I don't know if he is overcharging me for my issue. Since I will be the defendant, I don't want to be put at a disadvantage by paying legal fees which outrageously exceed the plaintiff's. When I asked why it could cost that much, he explained that since this is a "he said/she said" case, depositions and other costs could run really high.

Should I looking for a different attorney or stay with this one? If this matters - it is a law firm with 10 members total and they specialize in business law. The plaintiff's attorney is an employment/personal injury lawyer.

Attorney Answers 6

  1. Best answer

    It's really impossible for anyone on this forum to gauge your situation, and therefore whether the fee estimate you've been given is reasonable, without knowing the specific facts of your case.

    But I can tell you one thing: litigation is frequently unpleasant, and almost invariably costly. In order to properly defend you, your attorney must spend hours reviewing your circumstances, marshaling evidence, researching the law, drafting documents, and appearing in court. All the while, the plaintiff's attorney will actively seek to undo every bit of progress you make, and oppose you at every turn. This all contributes to the many hours your attorney will work on your behalf (and the attorneys' fees you'll incur). And we haven't even begun to talk about court costs and other fees (such as filing fees and court reporter fees for depositions).

    So is the quote you've been given reasonable? The short answer: it depends. It depends on the facts of your case. It depends on how combative the plaintiff is. It depends on both parties' willingness to settle. It depends on your attorney's hourly rate. It depends on how far along the case gets before settling (if it settles at all). $50K to get you through trial could be reasonable or outrageous---it all depends on the foregoing factors, and more.

    After that long-winded answer, some practical advice: if you're not comfortable with what you've been quoted, I'd encourage you to consult with more attorneys. This is an important decision, so shop around. Conduct a "beauty pageant" and see who you like best, and who will give you the best combination of perceived expertise vs. cost. And then make your informed decision.

    Best of luck to you.

    The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author, and Pham Law Group does not represent you as your attorneys until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both parties.

  2. How much are you arguing over? What's the potential downside exposure?

    Now, as objectively as you can think about it, how do you think the "he said/she said" would play out to 12 average and perhaps not terribly bright people drawn at random from your community (and who can't beg off with better things to do than be on a jury...lots of older, retired, unemployed, poorly educated people, perhaps? Where it's a crapshoot which side they choose.

    (Sorry if I have offended anyone's naive civics class sensibilities, but you can assume that you might end up with a jury hearing all of this "he said/she said" who are not interested in the dispute, bored and just want the whole thing to get over and get back home....or, worse, actually think $40/day is a windfall and a boon).

    The think about how much you want to spend or not spend on attorneys...or the possibilities of settlement, even if you think you are "right".

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  3. Why don't you run your case by another attorney to see how the quote compares? Just beware of the attorney who really minimizes the fees just to get you in the door. It can't hurt to shop around a little unless you are in a time crunch. There are many business attorneys here on AVVO. Use the Find A Lawyer tab to search for an attorney. Good luck!

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case. No attorney-client relationship shall be created through the use reading of this response on Avvo. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this response.

  4. In all likelihood, the plaintiff's attorney will be working on contingency -- i.e., a percentage share of the recovery in the case, if any. Plaintiffs and defendants are not similarly situated with respect to their legal fees because plaintiffs can potentially recover a monetary reward while defendants are more typically at risk for paying out money. It is common for the plaintiff's attorney to make a contract for representation on contingency where the plaintiff owes nothing unless the case succeeds. That arrangement is not available to defendants. You can't let this difference in situation bother you because you cannot affect or equalize it.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

  5. I agree with each of my colleagues answers. I write only to mention that, without knowing something about your case, any estimate of the cost to defend against it is worthless. Litigation can be very expensive both emotionally and financially and certainly can exceed the estimate given you by the attorney you have consulted.

    Better questions to ask a prospective attorney are: How will you defend me? What are my potential defenses? Do I have any causes of action against the plaintiff? What is my potential exposure? Can we mediate this dispute before legal fees and costs get out of hand? Will I be able to recoup reasonable attorney fees if I prevail? How will my case be staffed? When multiple attorneys work on my case, how will I be charged?

    Clients are usually happiest when litigation is resolved sooner than later – so, irrespective of how much an attorney charges per hour or any estimate as to ultimate fee – you should know your attorney’s plan to get you out from under the lawsuit as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. Frequently, this will require a payment from you to the plaintiff sufficiently large enough for plaintiff to settle the suit. If you are unwilling to make that payment you cannot, in my opinion, complain later about the ultimate cost of the litigation.

    Should you look for a different attorney? Certainly not merely because of the estimate of litigation costs unless you cannot pay them. If you cannot pay them, then you do need to look elsewhere. Good luck.

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  6. I am hesitant to jump in here, as you have received so many good answers. I should note, as you stated, the initial atty you have spoken with says "it MAY" cost that much. He is NOT charging you that much, but letting you know the possibilities. I'm not exactly sure why a "he said, she said" deposition would be a whole lot more money. That makes little sense to me. A "he said, she said" case I CAN see being a lot more money. Regardless, you should speak with at least one or two more attorneys before deciding who to go with and see if anyone will CAP their rates at a certain amount or take a percentage of an amount they save you from paying out? Good luck.

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