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Who is in charge of the money spent on my case - me or my attorney?

Anaheim, CA |

My lawsuit is such where my attorneys fees are a percentage of the amount rewarded or if I lose I don't owe them. At least that is my understanding. The problem is it seems like they are spending a lot of money on things I don't think are necessary. I worried that if they spend too much I wont wind up with anything. I don't even know what it is over that percentage that I have to pay for. I mean who is in charge of all this and what can I do to control it without effectively pissing them off. I mean I know they are shelling out the money right now but isn't it really my money they are spending?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Ultimately you are responsible for all costs associated with your case. if you lose your case, you will also be responsible for the opposition's costs and attorney fees if the fee recovery is provided for by contract or statute. Your attorney-client fee agreement should discuss the issue of costs and need for your permission or authorization for costs incurred. Obviously the attoreys cannot call you to get permission every time they mail a letter or send a fax, but for significant items like deposition costs and transcripts, expert fees, motion fees, etc, they should be getting your express permission in writing! You need to have a friendly discussion with your attorneys and ask them about the costs and your concerns and request they consult with you before spending any significant amounts in the future.

    Legal disclaimer:This message does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements are made for general informational purposes and do not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client privilege is created by this communication. Attorney is licensed in California only.

  2. What you have is a contingency fee agreement. This means you don't pay the attorney for all his or her hard work (which could be hours and hours of work) unless you prevail at trial (and nothing is guaranteed). If you think about how many hours go into preparing for a case, drafting pleadings, writing documents, etc. then your attorney is taking a huge risk in not getting paid because there is no such thing as a slam dunk. There is no such thing as a guaranteed win, so technically you don't have any money yet.

    Often in the course of litigation, strategic decisions need to be made. These decisions could affect the likelihood of your prevailing at trial. Decisions like hiring expert witnesses (who have their own fees and expenses) may be critical to your being able to prove your case. Other decisions like deciding to take a deposition, which involves costs for transcripts and court reporters may also be critical because it is important to have as much advance information about the other side's case as possible. You don't want to be caught with your proverbial "pants down" if you walk into trial and have no idea what someone else's expert may say or what the other side's theory of a defense is.

    Respectfully, you as a layperson may not be qualified to make certain strategic decisions with regard to a may not know whom to depose, or whether you need an expert to testify on your behalf. You may not know which information you may need to establish or prove your case and/or how to get that information into evidence at trial. Please, leave deciding what is "necessary" to your case to a legal professional. Attorneys are not in the business of running up a client's expenses for the fun of it. As for really being YOUR money that's being spent? Why should an attorney have to pay your expenses for you? Secondly, some of these expenses are costly..would you prefer to pay these necessary expenses out of your own pocket?

    DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

  3. Read your retainer agreement. It probably leaves the costs decisions up to the atty. Thereis usually no incentive for the lawyer to unnecessarily incur costs. The money is being pain out of the attys pocket now, with the the hope it will be reimbursed later. This is the way it goes. Costs can get quite high in cases, especially with the courts budget problems leading to increases in all kinds of costs, not to mention the high fees of experts.