During one of the worst times of my life I was forced to file divorce and seek legal council when my ex-wife made some false accusations and filed a warrant to be issued for my arrest as well as a TPO. BJ was the first lawyer to call me back and he presented to be a good option for my legal defense and in the beginning he was. During the TPO and Warrant issue he charged a reasonable flat rate and he was amazing in court. He represented me well and was able to assist me in getting both cases dropped. The only complaint I had at that point was the way he would misrepresent information to me. I went 26 days without seeing by daughter and half of that time was because BJ had a conflict and asked for our hearing to be moved. Which may have been fine if he explained it to me prior to making that call and was honest as opposed to telling me that the courts calendar rescheduled my case.
The second major issue was when we finally had mediation scheduled for a friday afternoon I believe. Atlanta had been on somewhat of a inclement weather warning for a possible ice storm for the entire week. BJ decided to wait until the morning of to reschedule our mediation and had his secretary tell me that "The courts are closed due to weather" the only problem is that it was 7:00 am and the court doesn't open until 9:00 am. Something just didn't make sense; so I waited until the courts open to give them a call and they were indeed open. Then, I find out BJ doesn't want to go because he doesn't want to get stuck in traffic. I decide to go unrepresented to mediation considering he would not make it and he tries initially to block me from going and refuses to sign off on me going in by myself. Ultimately, after some push back his wife signs off on me going alone.
The final straw was when he wanted to have me settle as an every other weekend Dad starting at 3 1/2 when we had discussed I wasn't going for anything less than the 45% parenting time I had already been exercising. Maybe he was tired of my case, had made enough money off of me, or was sick of me in general but I knew then it was time to go in a different direction. I then withdrew as a client and hired a new attorney who was amazing and won me both Joint physical and Legal custody as a dad, about 45-50% parenting time, and a reasonable child support number. As a father I couldnt be happier with this result. Too bad I couldnt do that with the 11,000+ I spent in 10 months with BJ.
BJ charges about 450/hr and will charge you for about everything(which wasn't the case for me in the beginning but eventually changed). They charge .6 minutes for every email, phone call, to review your file(which he was to do to familiarize himself with your case), Intraoffice conferences(talking about your case with his staff), talking to the other attorney, and filing all the paperwork. It adds up very quickly. Divorces take at least a year in 9/10 cases and 10,000 dollars equals about 22.2 hours of work which he will certainly spend more time with your case. Find a lawyer that charges a FLAT RATE!
In his defense there was some work he did that he didn't charge me for early on. The major issue I had with him was when he decided not to fight for my relationship with my daughter anymore. BJ is very busy and has a lot of clients which takes attention from your case. You can rarely get him on the phone and must come in to speak with him which obviously allows him to bill more( for the "30 min" it takes him to review your file). His office also has a fairly high turnover rate. Which means you will have to familiarize multiple people with your case.
Overall I think BJ is a decent guy that wants to make a lot of money(like most of us). I just didn't feel like a priority when I look back on my time with his firm and that shows by the lack of progress with my case during that time. Take your time, research, and count the costs.
Response from Robert Abbott July 27, 2016
In response to Mr. Bell's claim, which is completely unfair, there were many hours invested in his case at no charge. Mr. Bell always told me that he had the funds to keep going and he fully understood that until his retainer was paid that my firm was not going to work for free, Mr. Bell decided that he could not pay any more money and I placed his case on hold to prevent him going into further debt with my firm. The last thing I wanted him to do was to go unrepresented to mediation or trial which ultimately he demanded to do and we finally permitted as this was his decision. We were only trying to protecting him.
It is unfair to portray my firm in the manner that he has. I asked him if it were fair if he were to work at his job some 20-30 hours and his boss decided not to pay him. How would he feel? He would expect to be paid for his services as did I.
All should understand who hire lawyers that they cost money. Make sure that you receive, like Mr. Bell did, a complete fee agreement that lists the charges, rates ($350.00/hr. not $450.00/hr.) and specifically shows what items you will be billed for (i.e. emails, etc.).
In the end, it is unfair and unreasonable to expect that any attorney will work for you for free. Mr. Bell simply did not pay for his services and that is when the work stopped..