Reasonable attorneys fees are determined by a court upon proper and timely application. The court considers numerous criteria to determine what constitutes reasonable attorney fees including but not limited to the time spent, the hourly rate charged, the hourly rate for other attorneys performing similar professional services in the geographical area, , the complexity of the matter, the results obtained, the amount in controversy, and the skill and reputation of the the attorney. Further, the contract provision providing for prevailing party reasonable attorney fees would have to analyzed as well. Depending on the language of the provision providing for reasonable attorney fees, pre-litigation fees could be included in an award of reasonable attorney fees.
If a dispute is resolved before litigation and the reasonable attorney fee provision permits recovery of attorney fees incurred in the pre-litigation stage, then the parties should use the same criteria that a court would use and negotiate for the best deal.
What is the reasonable value (aka "quantum meruit") of legal services?
In Fergus v. Songer (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 552, 561, the Court of Appeal cited with approval the following nine factors relevant to deciding a legal fee quantum meruit claim: 1) The amount of the fee in proportion to the value of the services performed; 2) The novelty and difficulty of the questions involved and the skill necessary to perform the legal services properly; 3) The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the attorney; 4) The amount involved and the results obtained; 5) The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances; 6) The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; 7) The experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney performing the services; 8) The time and labor required; and 9) The informed consent of the client to the fee.
All of these factors address the value of the legal services to the client, the client’s consent to the fee, and the cost to the attorney of providing the requested legal services.
Sacramento is not a very high cost area so the hourly rates for many attorneys in Sacramento are a bit lower than those in SFO or LA. A rough guide would be about $250 to $300 per hour (and this is REALLY an estimate).
You need to find out how much time the work done should have taken and multiply that time by the rate.
If you cannot agree on the total charge, ask the lawyer to mediate or arbitrate his/her fee in the Sacramento Bar program: SACRAMENTO COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION - Fee Arbitration Program Administrator
Sacramento County Bar Association 1329 Howe Avenue, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95825 - telephone 916-564-3780 -Fax: 916-564-6707
If a substantial portion of the services were performed in the county or the attorney has, or had at the time of services, an office in the county.
5% of the amount in dispute with a $25 minimum and $3,500 maximum fee.
(this can be divided or apportioned as the arbitrators see fit at the end)
Panel Size (# of arbitrators): 1 if the disputed amount if $10,000 or less - 3 if the amount in dispute is over $10,000.
You don't have to actually follow though on this but sometimes just asking if the lawyer will agree to the program but mentioning the program helps to make them amenable to resolving the claim.
The concept of reasonableness of fees charged will be established through a session or sessions with the judge.
Some of the factors (they vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction) are the hourly rate, the amount of time spent, the kinds of things done and the result obtained.
I do not practice in your state so this is general advise for you to consider.