I do not know of any attorney that charges monthly fees regardless if your using their services or not. What you're describing might be if you have extensive and/or regular legal needs and wanted an attorney on permanent retainer. However, that is probably very rare. Instead, most attorneys require an advance fee or retainer upfront and would only send a monthly invoice if they do more work than was covered by the retainer.
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I agree with Christine; there is almost no such thing as what you are describing. Every time you hire an attorney, he is your contractor. Did you mean that he is your full time employee and you pay his health insurance and payroll taxes? that is about the only circumstance where you would have a bill regardless of how much work he did...
Lawyers are independent businesspeople who can charge as they see fit. When working for clients, the lawyer almost always is acting as an independent contractor. You, as a potential customer, can try to negotiate with the lawyer. If you do not like the way one lawyer sets fees, and he refuses to change it, you can always shop around with some other lawyers. You can have any arrangement that you and the lawyer agree to.
In most cases, fee arrangements offered by a lawyer will be legal and ethical. A few types of charging arrangements could be illegal, such as a contingency fee in a criminal case (attorney pay depends on outcome of criminal case), or requirement that client agree to testify as a favorable witness in the case of a different client, etc. Contingency fees are allowed in most civil cases, and that is a common way for people to get representation without paying money up front, by paying instead a percentage of the amount of money the attorney acquires for the client.
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