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Would you consider unethical for a lawyer to let a client talk and talk to vent herself only to charge more money?

Morristown, NJ |

Family law Judge ordered that I should reimburse legal fees to plaintiff. It was a simple case that lasted 7 min in trial. I was charged 1800. On the invoice Lawyers shows 3 in court and 3 hours talking to plaintiff. Motion was about reconsidering child physical custody due to plaintiff transporting son w/out proper license and insurance and also for bad living conditions. Before trial she moved out to a better home. I just do not see lawyer listening for 3 hours about this legal issue. Would you consider excessive? I did not appeal order but I want to go to fee arbitration if I can. We can not afford lawyers that charge 350 HR we are not rich people. Any advise?

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Attorney answers 3


The issue that you were in court over, the bad living conditions, is an incredibly fact based inquiry that typically requires extensive preparation and analysis. While it might have only been a seven minute hearing, opposing counsel had to know the extent of the living conditions and be overprepared to illustrate, with competent evidence, how the living conditions were acceptable.

Especially in matters involving children it is not an acceptable level of representation to have asked "are the living conditions ok?" and after hearing 'yes' then to respond "okay good for me see 'ya in court."

Unless she has a protective order against you or otherwise the judge has told you not to contact her, you can politely and earnestly try to discuss the crippling attorney fees at your income level and attempt to come up with a workable solution for the future. Just remember, and remind her, it is all about the kids at the end of the day. You could buy them a playstation 3 and send them to summer camp, or you can buy a lawyer a new Rolex every squabble with your ex-partner. In that situation I know what I would choose for my kids.

Best of luck

There is NO attorney-client privilege based on this interaction. I am NOT your attorney. We have no signed engagement letter with a clear understanding regarding fees. Further, everything we both just wrote is publicly available on the internet and would be the same as if we were talking in a crowded restaurant, there are many witnesses looking over your shoulder and can repeat anything you write here. If you need legal assistance use Avvo to find a local attorney in your jurisdiction that you feel can best represent your interests as a zealous advocate. My experience is in corporate tax, white collar criminal defense, partnership tax, and tax controversy/litigation. If you're being audited by the IRS or state taxing authority, or you are taking an unusually risky tax position on a return, that is the kind of thing you should have experienced counsel on your side and we can set up an initial consultation. If you have a family law, debt collection, violent crime sort of issue then I do not handle that. Do not contact me for an initial consultation on non-tax matters.


Three hours does not seem excessive at all. Attorneys work hard to be fully prepared for hearings, and in fact our ethical rules and duties to our clients require us to prepare diligently, no matter how long the hearing ends up lasting.


I'm sorry Asker, but 6 hours to handle a custody motion is exceptionally reasonable, under any metric. The fact that the hearing took 7 minutes doesn't take into account the time the attorney actually spent at the courthouse waiting to be heard, or the time spent in the office preparing for the hearing or reviewing client documents/emails, speaking to the client, and any number of other things we do when opening a file and preparing to represent our clients.

As for the hourly rate, the longer an attorney has practiced and the more skilled she or he is, the more the attorney can choose to charge.

a better question might be: what happened where you're paying her attorney fees?

The foregoing is not legal advice, and nothing in the foregoing shall be deemed to create an attorney client relationship. If you feel you need to speak with an attorney regarding your issue, it is recommended that you contact an attorney with expertise in your area of inquiry. The information related above is purely for informational purposes, and should not be acted upon without speaking with qualified counsel familiar with you specific situation and the laws related thereto.

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