Friends cousin works for a lawyer. He sent her a copy of a form my company wanted me to sign. A few days later a got a call from a lawyer to discuss. This is about a 10 minute call. Fees were never discussed and a couple of weeks later a got a $660 invoice. Am I responsible for this bill even though I never agreed to a consultation personallly.
You should not be responsible for this bill if you never agreed to pay for the consultation. Moreover, at $660 for 10 minutes, the hourly rate is outrageous.
You can (1) call the attorney to say that there is a misunderstanding, (2) ignore and simply not pay the bill, or (3) enter into fee arbitration or fee mediation with the attorney.
The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
Clients in California are entitled to a written retainer agreement. By the time my colleague Mr. Chen uses language like "outrageous" it really is outrageous. Tell the lawyer you never received a retainer agreement, never agreed to pay, and if he pursues you will pursue with the state bar arbitration over fees and a state bar complaint for failure to provide a retainer agreement.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
I agree with my colleagues that the attorney may not charge you for this time unless you consented to the fee.
California Business and Professions Code section 6148 requires a written fee agreement for any representation if it is “reasonably foreseeable that total expense to a client, including attorney fees, will exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) . . . .” unless the fee is a contingency fee.
In your case, there does not appear to be a contingency issue and it does not appear the total expense would be above $1,000. Based on this, no written agreement was required.
â†’ However, the client’s consent is ALWAYS required before an attorney can bill for services. It may be that your friend told the attorney you would pay her, but even if so, the attorney had to make that arrangement with you personally.
If the attorney were allowed to charge you, I have no idea if the $660.00 was reasonable or not because I have no idea if the attorney needed to review the document or conduct any related research. Nevertheless, as the attorney never received your agreement to the fee, she cannot charge you.
I’ve copied and pasted Business and Professions Code section 6148 below for your information.
§ 6148. Contracts for services in cases not coming within § 6147; bills rendered by attorney; contents; failure to comply
(a) In any case not coming within Section 6147 [related to contingency fees] in which it is reasonably foreseeable that total expense to a client, including attorney fees, will exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), the contract for services in the case shall be in writing. At the time the contract is entered into, the attorney shall provide a duplicate copy of the contract signed by both the attorney and the client, or the client's guardian or representative, to the client or to the client's guardian or representative. The written contract shall contain all of the following:
(1) Any basis of compensation including, but not limited to, hourly rates, statutory fees or flat fees, and other standard rates, fees, and charges applicable to the case.
(2) The general nature of the legal services to be provided to the client.
(3) The respective responsibilities of the attorney and the client as to the performance of the contract.
(b) All bills rendered by an attorney to a client shall clearly state the basis thereof. Bills for the fee portion of the bill shall include the amount, rate, basis for calculation, or other method of determination of the attorney's fees and costs. Bills for the cost and expense portion of the bill shall clearly identify the costs and expenses incurred and the amount of the costs and expenses. Upon request by the client, the attorney shall provide a bill to the client no later than 10 days following the request unless the attorney has provided a bill to the client within 31 days prior to the request, in which case the attorney may provide a bill to the client no later than 31 days following the date the most recent bill was provided. The client is entitled to make similar requests at intervals of no less than 30 days following the initial request. In providing responses to client requests for billing information, the attorney may use billing data that is currently effective on the date of the request, or, if any fees or costs to that date cannot be accurately determined, they shall be described and estimated.
(c) Failure to comply with any provision of this section renders the agreement voidable at the option of the client, and the attorney shall, upon the agreement being voided, be entitled to collect a reasonable fee.
(d) This section shall not apply to any of the following:
(1) Services rendered in an emergency to avoid foreseeable prejudice to the rights or interests of the client or where a writing is otherwise impractical.
(2) An arrangement as to the fee implied by the fact that the attorney's services are of the same general kind as previously rendered to and paid for by the client.
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
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